Chavez stands accused of funneling $800K to Fernandez, via a Miami resident. Photo via Getty Images.

Jury Deliberation Begins This Morning In The "Suitcase Trial"

Like all great federal trials in Miami, the case a jury is expected to begin deliberating on this morning has a name worthy of a the best cheap paperback thrillers: The Suitcase Trial.

The details, likewise, wouldn't disappoint too many summer readers soaking up the sun on South Beach: $800,000 in cash stuffed into a suitcase, allegations of spying, international intrigue, diplomatic tension. All we're missing is a sultry femme fatale.

It's a complex case -- as you can read about in the Herald's story on closing arguments -- but essentially it boils down to a Miami resident named Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson flying into a Buenos Aires airport with a hell of a lot of cash stuffed into his luggage.

U.S. officials assert that Wilson, a dual American-Venezuelan citizen, was carrying the money on behalf of Hugo Chavez to aid the campaign of political ally Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

Antioni turned witness for the FBI when he returned to the U.S., wearing a wiretap and implicating the central figure of the Suitcase Trial, Franklin Duran, a wealthy businessman, of working for Chavez and trying to cover-up the source of the cash.

The case has been front-page news for months from Caracas to Santiago, often dividing opinion neatly between Chavez supporters and detractors.

Needless to say, Bush and co. fall cleanly into the latter category. And lord knows they could probably use some kind of victory -- even if it only comes in a Miami courtroom.

-- Tim Elfrink

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