Giordano denies wrongdoing in Aruba disappearance

Gary Giordano, center, a Maryland businessman who had been jailed in Aruba on suspicion of involvement in the presumed death of his traveling companion, walks through Miami International Airport in Miami with attorney Jose Baez, right, after leaving Aruba, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Giordano denies any wrongdoing in the disappearance of Robyn Gardner. A judge ordered his release after ruling prosecutors didn\'t have enough evidence to justify holding him longer. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Paul D. Shinkman,

WASHINGTON — The Maryland man held in Aruba for nearly four months gave his first live interview after returning to the U.S., professing his innocence and offering his perspective on the string of incidents that led Aruban authorities to believe he was responsible for the disappearance of his traveling companion, Robyn Gardner.

Gary Giordano appeared on “Good Morning America” on Thursday morning, flanked by his lawyer, Jose Baez, and his three sons with whom he had a tearful reunion after arriving at Miami International Airport the day before. The Gaithersburg businessman’s explanation included refuting what his lawyer described as an “extremely misreported” story by the media, much of which he was unaware during his incarceration.

Prior to his live appearance, GMA presented a report of the case, starting with Gardner’s original disappearance in Aug. 2, and a “mountain” of evidence that leaves many questions unanswered.

“There’s a mountain of nothing,” Baez said to GMA, “Not even a mountain of sand as it relates to any type of crime.”

Giordano addressed some of the reported inconsistencies in his story — which he says he has told “50, 60 times” while held in Aruban jail — including surveillance video of him searching for authorities after when he says Gardner, of Frederick, Md., was swept out to sea. Some say the footage shows Giordano as more relaxed than a panicked man who needs help.

He says he was tired having just swam a great distance, then running to look for help in a seemingly vacant building.

“It’s like running a marathon,” he told GMA. “There’s nobody there. I’m supposed to scream in the air?”

Giordano also spoke of the $1.5 million insurance policy he took out on Gardner, which caught the attention of Aruban authorities when he inquired about potential collection the day after her disappearance.

His lawyer at the time told him to make those inquiries, he says, following reports that Aruban officials would use private helicopters and divers to conduct a search for Gardner, for which he could then be billed.

Giordano also pointed to a publication from the Dutch government — which has autonomy over the island nation off the coast of Venezuela — that instructs travelers to contact authorities in an emergency, then immediately follow up with their insurance company.

The insurance website he used days before arriving in Aruba orders policies for the entire traveling group, not each member, Giordano says. The amount he took out was for himself with his sons in mind, he says. He could not differentiate that from his traveling companion.

When asked if he would have done anything differently, Giordano immediately replied, “Yes.”

“I feel a person I care about, a companion…has disappeared on my watch. It will weigh heavily on me for a long time.”

He also says the main industries of Aruba are cocaine distribution and human trafficking, and points to what he says are well traveled sea routes to nearby Venezuela.

That country is “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor,” according to the CIA World Factbook. “Venezuela is not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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