Introduction: Revisiting investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker , the program highlights more of the interlocked scandals and investigations that overlap the milieu of the Florida flight schools through which many of the 9/11 hijackers infiltrated. In the years since the 9/11 attacks, Daniel has uncovered evidentiary tributaries linking the flight school milieu to elements of the American and foreign intelligence agencies, organized crime syndicates in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, as well as the fascist Muslim Brotherhood, parent organization of al-Qaeda and Hamas, among other organizations. In this program, Daniel sets forth a tangled web linking an attempt at stinging Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to a plane registered to a CIA contractor, as well as an Argentine milieu linked to terror bombing and Latin American fascism . Among the names that crops up in this complex investigation is Alfredo Yabran , an intimate of former Argentine president Carlos Menem. Like Menem and Yabran associate Monzer al-Kassar , Yabran was a native of the same, small Syrian town. Al-Kassar–recently convicted in the United States–has been deeply involved in terrorist support activities, arms trafficking and drug trafficking, including procuring East Bloc arms for the Contras in Nicaragua on behalf of Oliver North and the Reagan administration. Like Al-Kassar, Yabran was implicated in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, as well as the 1994 bombing of the AMIA cultural center–the latter event linked to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, as well as the 9/11 attacks. When his powerful connections around the world could no longer shield Yabran from the consequences of his actions, he was found shot to death, an alleged suicide.
Program Highlights Include: Review of Yabran’s connections to former U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Terrence Todman; review of Yabran’s links to Wenceslao Bunge of the famous (infamous?) Bunge  family of Argentina, one of whose business enterprises figures in some of the financial maneuvering that took place in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy ; review of Yabran’s collaboration with Al-Kassar’s many criminal activities.
1. Yabran figures into a recent scandal involving bribery, supposedly involving Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Among the elements in this operation are: elements of the governments of the United States, Argentina and Venezuela; the milieu of Jack Abramoff; cocaine smuggling; covert operations in Iraq; covert operations in Colombia; private contractors ; public scandals; the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994 and evidentiary tributaries leading the direction of the 9/11 attacks!
“At least two of the four defendants convicted of working as illegal foreign agents in Florida for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the Suitcase-Gate Scandal had ties to an international criminal organization which was operating successfully in Venezuela, and with seeming official impunity, long before Chavez himself came to power, The MadCowMorningNews has learned.
Both the recently-convicted Franklin Duran, and Carlos Kauffmann, who pled guilty before the trial, took part in a $7 billion bank scandal during the mid-1990’s that involved insiders looting Venezuelan banks, and led more than 200 Venezuelan bankers to flee Caracas for exile in Miami.
Duran and Kauffman began their meteoric rise to commanding fortunes, by their mid-30’s, of $100 million in Kauffmann’s case, and a staggering $800 million in Duran’s, in the banking scandal.
Also looted, ironically, was the Venezuelan government’s response to the looting: the government institution to oversee banks and ensure they weren’t looted again.
When a U.S. jury in Miami recently convicted Venezuelan businessman Franklin Duran in the Suitcase-Gate trial, the verdict raised more questions than it answered.
The scandal, which soon became well-known throughout Latin America, began last year with the discovery of a mysterious suitcase filled with $800,000 in cash at an airport in Buenos Aires.
The $800,000, as well as $4.5 million in cash in a second suitcase which wasn’t discovered, according to testimony in the trial, was a bribe–or, more charitably, a token of his esteem– from Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to Nestor Kirchner and wife Cristina, the former and current Presidents of Argentina, three days in advance of a state visit by Chavez last year.
Miami “businessman” Guido Antonini Wilson, hereafter known as “Guido the Bagman,” said it was his suitcase. And then began the cover-up attempt that ended when four Venezuelan men were eventually convicted of attempting to secure Guido’s silence about the source of the loot.
From the start, observers saw the purpose of the prosecution as being to embarrass and point a finger at corruption in the government of Venezuela’s current President (and Bush Administration bete noire) Hugo Chavez.
But while Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution” was being singled out by Bush Administration prosecutors as the source of the corruption, the men acting on Chavez’s behalf have connections which have so far been ignored to scandals which occurred under past Venezuelan Presidents as well.
In stories today and over the next two days we will report the results of a two-month long investigation into the facts behind the Suitcase-Gate Scandal, and offer a partial reconstruction of what was, for those involved, “a bad day in Buenos Aires.”
Evidence unearthed to date points to a thorough-going cover-up. Among the items being concealed:
Details repeatedly left out or omitted, in both media accounts and in the trial itself, which would have identified not just the individuals charged in the case, but also implicated a larger criminal organization with corrupt ties to previous Venezuelan Presidents for at least the past two decades.
Among the crucial details being concealed is the role played by the international criminal organization of Argentine “businessman” Alfredo Yabrán, widely reported to have international Mafia connections as well as extremely close ties to the Argentine military juntas responsible for atrocities during Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Yabrán later became the Argentine kingmaker behind disgraced former President Carlos Menem. He was at one time so powerful in Argentina that his picture had never appeared in a newspaper.
When a photo of him was finally published, he had the journalist who took the photograph murdered: shot and then burned to death in his car.
Also hidden from public view during the trial was the identity of the owner of the American-registered (N5113S) top-of-the-line luxury Citation X jet carrying the cash-filled suitcase flight to Buenos Aires.
As we reported in our last story, the jet carried the same registration, or” N” number, as that of a plane flying for Air-Scan, a CIA aviation contractor in Iraq.
In tomorrow’s follow-up story, The MadCowMorningNews will publish another exclusive: the plane’s official FAA registration, which can be traced to a former major client of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The plane was owned, the registration records indicate, by a woman who first struck it rich as a 800-number sex-lines porn mogul, then as an Internet “porn princess,” and finally as majority owner of one of the world’s most lucrative online gambling sites.
Today she is an American living in exile in Gibraltar, and one of the world’s wealthiest women.
Her picture has never appeared in a newspaper, either.
Another apparently pivotal player unmentioned at the trial is Alex del Nogal, who fled Argentina the same day his associate Guido Antonini Wilson was caught smuggling a cash-stuffed suitcase into Buenos Aires.
One month later, Del Nogal was arrested in Italy after an international manhunt. He was charged, and later convicted, of international narcotics trafficking.
Amazing but true: this particular “Guido associate” had been serving 20 years in Venezuelan prison for murdering a business rival by shooting him in the head and then dropping him from a plane into the Caribbean… until being pardoned by Hugo Chavez in 2001, and appointed to the Venezuelan secret police.
It had all the elements of a first class spy thriller: An impressive stash of contraband cash, winging its way to Argentina in the middle of the night, on a Cessna Citation X luxury business jet, the fastest civilian airplane in history.
And there was a strong whiff of drug and arms trafficking, made more plausible by the fact that the Citation is faster than any drug interdiction planes of the DEA, or, for that matter, of almost any other country in the world.
Suitcase-Gate had real world consequences. Venezuela began staging war games with Russian forces. Argentina and Bolivia kicked out their U.S. Ambassadors. Venezuela spent billions of petrodollars on Russian weapons.
And Hugo Chavez “reached out,” as they say on the Soprano’s, to Iran, cultivating warm bilateral relations.
Not to be out-done, the U.S. Navy reestablished its Fourth Fleet, which had been disestablished way back in 1950, to oversee U.S. naval activities in Latin American and Caribbean waters.
And Western officials began expressing fears that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is using Venezuela as a base for operations.
What was going on? Was all this over a lousy $800 grand?
Did Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez really spend $30 billion dollars to win influence in South America? Was Chavez trash-talking Uncle Sam while sending money and weapons to FARC guerrillas in Colombia? What’s the truth about the charge that Venezuela is doing business with Hezbollah?
Clearly the citizenry of all three countries—the U.S., Venezuela, and Argentina— deserve to know more.”
2. Yabran figures prominently in a tangle of scandal, terror and fascism bracketing successive Argentine governments and overlapping the worlds of international drug and arms trafficking and intelligence. This contatenation was highlighted in FTR #109.
“One of the most important and least publicized players in the tangled world of weapons and drug trafficking, terrorism and espionage is Monzer Al-Kassar. A key player in the Iran-Contra Scandal, Al-Kassar imports 20 % of the heroin that comes to the United States (according to the DEA) and has apparently figured prominently in numerous terrorist incidents. This program sets forth allegations of possible involvement by Al-Kassar in two terror bombings in Argentina, as well as his connections to the late Alfredo Yabran, a Mafia-like wheeler dealer who (like Al-Kassar) had strong connections to the government of Argentina. Argentine president Carlos Menem, Yabran and Al-Kassar are all from the same town in Syria. In addition, the program contains information about international connections to the AMIA bombing (one of the bombings Al-Kassar was allegedly involved with), the mysterious “suicide” of Yabran, Yabran’s connections to former U.S. Ambassador Terrence Todman, who assisted with Yaban’s financial machinations and also interceded with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Yabran’s behalf. The conclusion of the program deals with Yabran associate Wenceslao Bunge, a Harvard-educated lawyer who is apparently part of the Bunge family that has been pivotally involved with Bunge and Born. One of the world’s largest commodities brokers, Bunge & Born figured prominently in an intricate stock market manipulation that was apparently connected to the assassination of President Kennedy.”