U.S. Targets Venezuela TV Mogul Ahead of Maduro Inauguration

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. sanctioned Venezuela’s TV billionaire Raul Gorrin, and six of his close associates days before President Nicolas Maduro is set to begin his second term, alleging they were involved in corrupt foreign currency transactions.

The Treasury Department issued sanctions Monday against former Venezuelan National Treasurer Claudia Diaz and Gorrin, whom the department alleges paid bribes to Diaz and her husband to obtain a license to trade foreign currency. Gorrin was indicted by federal prosecutors in August on charges of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money-laundering.

A statement issued by the Treasury Department alleges Gorrin’s enterprises generated more than $2.4 billion in “corrupt proceeds.”

Gorrin’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Gorrin is linked to former treasurer Alejandro Andrade, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 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 beyond.

Andrade, who admitted to a money-laundering conspiracy and agreed to help prosecutors, said the bribes he took included money from Gorrin, who purchased Venezuela’s only privately owned TV channel in 2013 and softened its anti-government news coverage, fired journalists and ended current affairs programs.

“Venezuelan regime insiders have plundered billions of dollars from Venezuela while the Venezuelan people suffer. Treasury is targeting this currency exchange network which was another illicit scheme that the Venezuelan regime had long used to steal from its people,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.

The Trump administration also targeted frontman for senior military officials and politicians, Leonardo Gonzalez; Gorrin’s close circle, including his wife Maria Alexandra Perdomo, his associate Gustavo Perdomo and his wife Mayela Tarascio-Perez. They also sanctioned Diaz’s husband, Adrian Velasquez. The U.S. Treasury also sanctioned an aircraft and 22 companies it alleges are controlled by one of more of the individuals.

U.S. pressure on Maduro has increased as the South American nation deals with hyperinflation spiraling at an annual rate of about 225,000 percent and vast shortages of food and medicine. The leftist leader is set to begin his second term as president on January 10, through what the U.S. says are rigged elections and corruption.

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