GIR | Guilty pleas unveiled in billion-dollar Venezuelan bribery scheme

By Clara Hudson | Global Investigations Review

An oilfield worker walks down the stairs, at Jose Antonio Anzoategui industrial complex of oil producer PDVSA| REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The owner of a major Venezuelan television network has been charged in connection with a $1 billion scheme to bribe Venezuelan officials.

 

The owner of a major Venezuelan television network has been charged in connection with a $1 billion scheme to bribe Venezuelan officials. A day after unsealing an indictment against Raúl Gorrín Belisario, the US Department of Justice on 20 November announced that his alleged co-conspirators – Alejandro Andrade Cedeño and Gabriel Arturo Jiménez Aray – had previously pleaded guilty under seal in the Southern District of Florida.

Andrade, the former national treasurer of Venezuela and a Florida resident, pleaded guilty in December. Jiménez, a Venezuelan citizen and Chicago resident who previously owned Banco Peravia in the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty in March, the DOJ said. Andrade and Jiménez – who both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering – will be cooperating with prosecutors in the case against Gorrín, their plea agreements say.

Gorrín, owner of Globovisión network and the insurance firm Seguros La Vitalicia, was declared a fugitive by a federal judge in September, according to court documents. Gorrín is charged with orchestrating a scheme to bribe officials, including Andrade, at the Venezuelan National Treasury in order to further a currency exchange scam, allegedly laundering its profits through the US financial system and luxury real estate. Gorrín, who has not publicly commented on the charges, is closely connected to Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez, according to reports. He is a Venezuelan citizen who has lived over the years at a home in Coral Gables, Florida.

Gorrín was charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and nine counts of money laundering. His August 2017 indictment, which was kept under wraps to protect the ongoing investigation, was recently unsealed to assist efforts to arrest Gorrín, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors detail how Gorrín allegedly paid officials to secure business to carry out currency exchange operations for the Venezuelan government. Between 2008 and 2017, Gorrín arranged millions in bribes to be paid to officials including Andrade, which were wired from his accounts in Switzerland (including his personal account at HSBC) to accounts in the US, the indictment says.

As well as cash bribes, Gorrín allegedly purchased luxury gifts for the officials, including three jets, a yacht, multiple champion horses and a number of high-end watches. Prosecutors also describe payments for a $1 million security system to be installed in an official’s home in Caracas and payments to a horse transportation company.

Andrade admitted to accepting over $1 billion in bribes from Gorrín and his co-conspirators in exchange for allowing them to profit by conducting foreign currency exchange transactions at favorable rates for the Venezuelan government. Andrade agreed to forfeit $1 billion and all assets he derived in the corrupt scheme including the real estate and horses. His sentencing is scheduled for 27 November.

Jiménez admitted that his role in the scheme was to help Gorrín launder the funds through Banco Peravia. His sentencing is scheduled for 29 November. According to the Miami Herald, Gorrín’s personal banker is Matthias Krull. Krull, a former banker at Swiss bank Julius Baer’s Panama division was sentenced in October to a decade in prison for his role in a scheme to embezzle funds from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company through “a network of professional money launderers”.

The indictment lists 24 addresses in Florida and New York that are subject to forfeiture. Gorrín’s lawyer, Howard Srebnick, did not respond to a request today for comment. He has previously denied that his client has committed any wrongdoing.

Srebnick is also counsel to Frank Robert Chatburn Ripalda, a dual US and Ecuadorian citizen who is accused of facilitating bribe payments worth $3.2 million to officials at the state-owned oil company PetroEcuador. Chatburn pleaded not guilty in August, and is expected to face trial in February 2019.

Bron: Global Investigations Review

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