January, 8 2019 (Panampost)
The United States government this week took aggressive measures to sanction a group of people guilty of participating in the economic devastation of Venezuela. These include individuals and companies that looted and embezzled public resources during the regimes of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department (OFAC) dealt a blow against those who made their fortune at the expense of Venezuela’s public resources. According to the Treasury Department, the total amount of the corruption scheme was USD $2.4 billion.
This scandal constitutes the biggest corruption case in the history of the region, and it far exceeds that of Lava Jato, in which the construction giant Odebrecht acknowledged having paid bribes amounting to USD $788 million, while in the case in Venezuela, one of those involved in the embezzlement acknowledged having received USD $1 billion in payments for illegal activities. Thus, the embezzlement represent a significant percentage of Venezuelan GDP.
The new financial sanctions are against Raúl Gorrín and his wife, owners of Globovisión, who stand accused of money laundering; as well as against Claudia Díaz Guillén, former treasurer of Venezuela, who is waging a legal battle to avoid extradition to Venezuela from Spain.
The sanctions also target Adrián Velásquez, husband of Díaz Guillén; Leonardo González, another key player in the corruption plot, Gustavo Perdomo, brother-in-law and partner of Gorrín; and his wife, Mayela Tarascio.
According to OFAC, these seven people were implicated during the testimony of Alejandro Andrade, the former Venezuelan national treasurer who is currently in the witness protection program in the United States, through a corruption scheme that gave them preferential access to dollars, which they then sold on the parallel market.
“People with access to the Venezuelan regime have stolen billions of dollars from Venezuela, while Venezuelans suffer. The Treasury Department is targeting this network of currency corruption,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the statement.
This group is commonly known as the “band of dwarves,” and is headed by Nicolás Maduro, but also involves figures from the judiciary, business leaders, and the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
Luis Velásquez Alvaray, a former Chavista judge on the Venezuelan Supreme Court, recently revealed that the criminal outfit that has destroyed the country involves businessmen Raúl Gorrín and Gustavo Perdomo, owners of the television network Globovisión, who allegedly are linked to drug trafficking along with the current President of the Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno.
According to the ex-judge, the “band of dwarves” is leading the looting of the state oil company PDVSA, the Cartel of the Suns, drug trafficking, and the creation of armed Chavista collectives which have terrorized the Venezuelan population.
“This government mafia has always been coordinated by Nicolás Maduro; first within the National Assembly, then from within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and now from within Miraflores…Chávez knew all about it, and ordered shipments for Cuba to satisfy the pressing needs of the island,” Velásquez Alvaray added.
According to the Department of the Treasury, Gorrín and González “controlled the corrupt wealth that was generated through Andrade, putting the money in accounts abroad and reinvesting it in properties, airplanes and other luxury assets, according to Andrade’s testimony. The illicit proceeds were never sent to these individuals directly; the purchase of these assets was made through a sophisticated network of US and foreign companies. All the individuals involved in the scheme spent their portions of the profits in the United States, and maintained large deposits in US banks.”
From billionaires to prisoners
Some of the Venezuelan businessmen complicit in the embezzlement, which has greatly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis facing the South American country, are in the hands of international justice.
Men who, overnight, became billionaires, with luxury properties in multiple cities and countries, planes, yachts, and the world at their feet, became inmates and fugitives from justice, having laundered billions of dollars stolen from the Venezuelan State with the help of Chavez.
The former bodyguards of Chávez and Gorrín
The most recent and scandalous case is that of Alejandro Andrade Cedeño, ex-bodyguard of former president Hugo Chávez, who was later appointed treasurer of the nation.
After leaving his position as treasurer, he moved to Florida, where he bought a luxurious horse farm in Wellington, an area internationally known for equestrianism and horsebreeding.
Andrade admitted to the US justice system that he had received USD $1 billion from bribery.