In an episode which has gripped South America the facts could simply not be made up; if it was fiction it would be dismissed as too implausible. On 4th August 2007 an Argentinian airport security officer, Maria del Lujan Telpuk, stopped asked a Venezuelan-American businessman, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, about the contents of his case. He had just disembarked from a flight chartered by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, to Buenos Aires.
The 28 year old security agent became suspicious when the man first said “books” then “just some papers” and then became very agitated when she asked him to open the case. It was stuffed to bursting with $50 bills. In a case being heard in the Florida courts prosecutors allege that the money was a clandestine payment from Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez to aid the election campaign of Cristina Kirchner. Both leaders have dismissed the allegation as an attempt by the US Government to smear two administrations which seek to break the ‘gringo hegemony’ in South America. The details of the case do not really concern us, but the airport security agent certainly does.
So what happens to the girl at the centre of what has been dubbed ‘Maletagate’ (maleta is Spanish for 'bag‘)? Well, she resigns from her job, gets breast augmentation surgery and becomes a cover girl for several magazines, most notably the Argentinian edition of Playboy, in which she appears naked with a suitcase under the headline ‘Corruption Laid Bare’. She’s also forging a career on TV and learning to ice skate for the show ‘Skating for a Dream’. Her busy schedule was interrupted for her testimony in court, but she was soon back on the ice. A far cry from the ‘Nothing to Declare’ aisle.