MIAMI (CN) - In the trial tied to a briefcase holding $800,000 intended for an Argentine presidential candidate, a man accused of being the foreign agent behind the deal is using a classic defense of blaming the informant against him. Except that in this case, the defense has a substantial history tied to it.
The money is alleged to have been sent by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for the campaign of the current President of Argentina, Cristina Ferandez de Kirchner.
Arrested in the U.S., defendant Franklin Duran is accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Venezuela. The principal witness against him is his former business partner, Alejandro Antonini, said by the defense to be engaged in a sordid conspiracy to set the FBI against Duran in order to keep Duran's money and South Florida property.
Duran's defense lawyer, Edward Shohat from Bierman Shohat Loewy & Klein, asked Antonini a series of questions during the trial that indirectly referred to the civil case of Foxdelta Investments Inc. against Antonini and his wife Jacqueline Regnault. However, the judge ordered the line of questioning stopped.
"This was all a plot by Antonini to get money and property [Duran] has here," Shohat said during the trial. The suitcase filled with money was the perfect trap to get Duran into prison, said the defense lawyer, in order to take the Foxdelta company's assets.
Foxdelta Investments Inc. is owned by Duran who is also the company's president. Antonini worked as vice president.
Last year, Antonini recommended that Duran buy multimillion-dollar condos in South Florida at the Trump Hollywood Condominium Project as an investment, according to the civil litigation. Antonini falsely told Duran that no one was permitted by Trump Hollywood to purchase more than one unit.
The company therefore funded the purchase of, but did not own, five condo units in the Trump Hollywood. Control of the properties went to Techmilk and Venuz Supply, companies owned at least in part by Antonini, says the defense.
Were Duran to wind up in jail, the defense is arguing, Antonini would get a lucrative windfall - ownership of the five South Florida condos.
Closing statements for the U.S. v. Duran trial are scheduled for Tuesday morning.
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