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Venezuelan found guilty in Miami in suitcase of cash case

A Venezuelan businessman was found guilty Monday of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered government agent for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a Miami case that has been closely watched in South America.

The verdict came in Miami federal court on the seventh day of deliberations by a 12-member jury in the trial dubbed ''Suitcase-gate.'' The case has drawn keen interest in Latin America.

Jurors agreed with federal prosecutors that Franklin Duran came to South Florida last year on behalf of the Venezuelan government to silence a business associate about a cash-filled suitcase intended for the campaign of Argentine President Cristina de Kirschner.

The investigation that led to Duran's arrest came after the business associate, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, returned to Miami in the days after the cash was discovered. He went to the FBI and agreed to wear a wire.

Duran, Carlos Kauffmann and two other men -- Moises Maionica and Rodolfo Wanseele Paciello -- were later arrested, and all but Duran pleaded guilty and cooperated with the prosecution.

A fifth man, Jose Canchica Gomez, was charged in the case and is still at large.

Duran, 41, faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12.

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