Venezuela’s Ex-Treasurer Will Give Up Houses, Horses and Watches
(Bloomberg) -- A former national treasurer of Venezuela who admitted taking bribes from a billionaire television mogul will give up the trappings of his fabulous life in south Florida, including real estate, show horses, luxury watches and foreign bank accounts.
Alejandro Andrade Cedeno, the treasurer from 2007 to 2010, pleaded guilty to a $1 billion money-laundering plot in which wealthy Venezuelans converted bolivars to dollars through a rigged exchange system. They then moved money out of the country, which is suffering a crippling economic crisis.
The Justice Department detailed the extent of Andrade’s corrupt wealth in unsealing his case Tuesday and revealing his cooperation with prosecutors. They also announced the indictment of Raul Gorrin Belisario, the billionaire who owns the Globovision television network, 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 Tuesday.
Andrade, once a bodyguard to the late President Hugo Chavez, admitted he took bribes as treasurer 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.
His plea deal requires him to forfeit the Palm Beach County real estate empire and horses that allowed his son, Emanuel, to become an Olympic equestrian. Andrade will give up a six-acre estate in a gated community and 17 horses with names like Tinker Bell, Bonjovi and Anastasia Du Park.
He’ll give over his 2017 Mercedes Benz GLS 550 and nine other cars, as well as three dozen watches from makers like Rolex, Hublot and Franck Muller. He’s forfeiting Swiss accounts at BSI Bank and EFG Bank, and at three large U.S. banks.
Andrade, 54, was a close ally of Chavez and helped him in a 1992 coup d’etat. He led Venezuela’s social fund bank and held other financial posts before rising to treasurer. His opponents accused him of the sort of graft and bribery he has admitted in the U.S., but he escaped formal corruption charges in Venezuela.
Andrade faces as long as 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced on Nov. 27, but he’s likely to get less time as a cooperator.
Prosecutors also relied on Jimenez, 50, who spent three years cooperating in “an international criminal investigation against highly dangerous individuals” that “put him in a dangerous position,” prosecutors said in an Oct. 1 filing unsealed Tuesday.
Jimenez admitted that he and others bought Banco Peravia with the intent to bribe Venezuelan government officials and launder money out of the country. The bank, which collapsed in 2014, used credit cards, cash disbursements and wire transfers, including to Swiss banks, to further the scheme, court records say.
The U.S. is gathering restitution from Jimenez, but prosecutors said it shouldn’t go to the government of Venezuela, where people are desperate to escape inflation that’s exceeding 1 million percent.
“The government of Venezuela’s complicity in this conspiracy renders victim status inappropriate,” prosecutors said in a July 27 court filing.
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