Venezuela's former treasurer took $1bn in bribes

Alejandro Andrade also received luxury properties, expensive watches, cars and horses

Former Venezuelan National Treasurer and Hugo Chavez's bodyguard, Alejandro Andrade

Venezuela's former national treasurer admitted receiving over US$1bn in bribes as part of illicit foreign currency operations that involved a local television mogul, according to court documents released on Tuesday. Alejandro Andrade, who ran the treasury for four years under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, after being his bodyguard, reportedly received properties, platinum and gold Rolex watches and Mercedes Benz vehicles thanks to the scheme, the documents from the Southern District of Florida say.

They also show that Andrade received bribes from brokerages to sell dollar-denominated bonds on behalf of the government. The brokerages kept part of the proceeds and returned kickbacks to him by buying him items including 17 horses, 35 luxury watches, 12 cars and six South Florida homes, according to a list of the property he agreed to relinquish to US authorities. He also handed over nine bank accounts in the US and Switzerland.

The laundering of millions of dollar,s stolen from the Venezuelan government,  was realised with the help of conspirators, including Raul Gorrin, owner of television station Globovision, who has been charged with paying bribes to Andrade and others as well as helping to launder the payments. 

The US prosecutors found that between 2008 and 2017 Gorrin facilitated more than $150m in bribe payments to officials in Venezuela's treasury for access to currency deals, with funds wired from Swiss bank accounts to accounts in Florida. He allegedly also bought jets, yachts, "champion horses" and luxury watches in Florida and Texas for a government official as a bribe, according to the indictment. For his crimes, he now faces a maximum penalty of 45 years in prison if found guilty.

Neither Globovision nor La Vitalicia responded to requests for comment. Gorrin's whereabouts were not immediately clear. 

The cases are part of a broad effort by US federal prosecutors to crack down on the use of the US financial system to launder proceeds from rampant corruption in the crisis-stricken country that is suffering from hyperinflation.

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