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Venezuelans Plead Not Guilty in 'Suitcase Scandal'


Two Venezuelans have pleaded not guilty to U.S. federal charges of acting as unregistered foreign agents, in a scandal involving an alleged illegal Venezuelan contribution to the electoral campaign of Argentina's new president.

Lawyers for Moises Maionica and Carlos Kauffmann entered their pleas Monday in a Miami, Florida courtroom.

They are among five men indicted in the case. Two others pleaded not guilty in December and one, Antonio Jose Canchica Gomez, is still at large.

U.S. authorities say the men came to Miami to pressure Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson into concealing the source of $800,000 brought into Argentina in a suitcase in August.

Antonini had the cash with him when he arrived at the Buenos Aires airport.

Argentine officials seized the money and allowed him to leave the country.

U.S. officials have not charged the Venezuelan-American Antonini, who is cooperating with American investigators.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, for whom the money was allegedly destined, has described the allegations as "garbage." Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of seeking to undermine the relationship between Venezuela and Argentina.

The U.S. says the case in not politically motivated.

Antonini is wanted in Argentina on money laundering charges, but U. S. prosecutors have declined to honor Argentina's extradition request.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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