Two former American Express Co. employes claimed in a civil lawsuit filed in a Miami circuit court Wednesday that they were forced out of their security jobs after refusing to go along with their bosses' plan to smuggle about 33,000 credit cards into Argentina.

The employes -- Urbano Ernesto Escobedo, 35, and Ramiro Sanchez, 48 -- said that when they were approached about the alleged plan in mid-September, American Express had nearly run out of its supply of plastic cards in Argentina and didn't have that government's permission to bring in more.

The Argentine government doesn't allow the importation of plastic into the South American country unless foreign companies receive a special permit, which American Express didn't have at the time, according to the two men's Miami lawyer, Ellis Rubin.

Rubin said Escobedo and Sanchez, both employed in American Express' Latin American security division in Coral Gables, were supposed to smuggle the cards into Argentina on Sept. 25-26 "by land, sea and air."

Walter Montgomery, American Express' vice president for public affairs, denounced those allegations as false. "I can state . . . that American Express did not violate, nor did it plan to violate such regulations," he said.

The civil lawsuit seeks "in excess of $10 million" in damages from American Express, American Express Travel Related Services Inc. and Marisa Gracia, vice president of security for Latin America and the Caribbean.