Venezuela’s Ex-Treasurer Gets 10 Years in U.S. Bribery Case

(Bloomberg) -- A former national treasurer of Venezuela was sentenced in Florida on Tuesday to 10 years in prison for taking more than $1 billion in bribes to help wealthy Venezuelans exploit a rigged exchange system and move money to the U.S. and elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Alejandro Andrade Cedeno pleaded guilty in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, to taking cash as well as homes, cars, champion horses and luxury watches. Andrade, who admitted to a money-laundering conspiracy and agreed to help prosecutors, agreed to forfeit cash and assets including real estate, horses, vehicles and bank accounts, court records show.

Andrade, 54, who was once a bodyguard to the late President Hugo Chavez, said he took the bribes to steer contracts to brokerage houses that conducted bolivar exchanges. Andrade chose which brokerages would sell bonds from the treasurer’s portfolio that were denominated in U.S. dollars. His conspirators could then “obtain substantial profits on the exchange transactions,” according to court documents.

Even after Andrade moved in 2012 to Wellington, Florida, the bribes continued until last November, he said in pleading guilty under seal last Dec. 22. Andrade said that the bribes he took from conspirators included money from the billionaire Raul Gorrin Belisario, who bought the Globovision television network in 2013.

“Since the beginning of this matter, Mr. Andrade has cooperated fully with the prosecutors, and he is eager to continue his cooperation,” said his attorney, Curtis Miner.

Under his agreement, prosecutors can return later to court to ask U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg to reduce his sentence in exchange for his cooperation, Miner said.

“There is a lot that is not known publicly about Mr. Andrade nor about the work that he has done in the past 10 years, which will be made known at a later date,” Miner said. “But, as Mr. Andrade told the judge today -- he has not been involved in any way with the government of Venezuela since 2011.”

Gorrin, 50, was indicted on charges that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspired to launder money, using the proceeds of his crimes to buy properties in southern Florida and New York. The U.S. seeks forfeiture of two dozen Gorrin properties, including luxury homes and apartments. On Sept. 21, a federal judge declared Gorrin, a Venezuelan citizen with a home in Miami, a fugitive from the U.S.

The Justice Department detailed the extent of Andrade’s corrupt wealth in unsealing his case this month and revealing his cooperation with prosecutors. They also announced the indictment of Gorrin and the guilty plea of Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, a Venezuelan who owned Banco Peravia in the Dominican Republic.

“The targets and subjects of this investigation are wealthy and powerful individuals who have used various and extensive financial instruments to move their money around the world,” prosecutors said in a June 13 filing about Jimenez made public this month.

The case is one of two Justice Department attacks on corruption that has crippled Venezuela as it goes through one of its worst economic crises. In a related case, Miami prosecutors charged nine people in a money-laundering scandal involving $1.2 billion stolen from Venezuela’s state-owned oil producers Petroleos de Venezuela SA, known as PDVSA.

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