The former treasurer of Hugo Chávez convicted of laundering in the US accepted bribes for more than USD 100 million

Claudia Diaz
Claudia Diaz

Yesterday, the former nurse of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was found guilty of money laundering in connection with paying bribes to a media mogul to approve lucrative currency transactions while serving as director of the National Treasury Office of Venezuela.

A South Florida jury deliberated just a few hours before convicting Claudia Diaz and her husband, Adrián Velásquez, of five of the six charges detailed in the indictment that accuses them of having accepted bribes for at least 4.2 million dollars.

Today, in a statement from the US Department of Justice, more details of the criminal scheme of Díaz and her husband were given.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Díaz and Velásquez accepted more than 100 million dollars in bribes from co-conspirator Raúl Gorrín Belisario54, a Venezuelan billionaire businessman who owns the news network Globovisión.

Gorrín paid Díaz bribes, including through her husband Velásquez, to gain access to buy Venezuelan National Treasury bonds at a favorable exchange rate, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit.

The conspiracy involved large amounts of cash hidden in cardboard boxes, shell companies abroad, Swiss bank accounts, and international wire transfers sent by Gorrín to purchase multiple private jets, yachts, and to finance a high-end fashion line started by Díaz and Velasquez in South Florida.

Raúl Gorrín, designated as front man for Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores
Raúl Gorrín, designated as front man for Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores

“Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén and Adrián José Velásquez Figueroa laundered the bribes that Díaz received as National Treasurer of Venezuela,” said the Assistant Secretary of Justice Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice.

“Díaz abused her position as a public official to line her pockets with more than a hundred million dollars, which she and her accomplices spent on private planes and yachts and laundered through the US financial system. Whether at home or abroad, the Criminal Division and its partners are committed to vigorously combating bribery and holding corrupt officials accountable.”

“Unfortunately, people in positions of power and public trust sometimes break that trust and use their power for selfish gain,” said United States Attorney Juan Antonio González for the Southern District of Florida. “We will remain vigilant in our fight against corruption and prosecute the culprits to the fullest extent.”

The couple’s trial was seen as a crucial test of the federal prosecution’s ability to hold Venezuela’s so-called kleptocrats to account for fleecing the oil nation.

According to the indictment, the couple received payments from companies controlled by Raul Gorrin in accounts in Miami that were supposedly used to finance the luxurious life of the couple.

The government’s case rested largely on the testimony of one of Díaz’s predecessors in the Treasury Office: Alexander Andradewho declared from the podium that Díaz continued with the financial agreement that he had initially made with Gorrín.

Like Díaz, Andrade, a former presidential security agent, capitalized on his personal relationship with Chávez to rise in the Venezuelan military and politics, amassing an enormous fortune almost overnight.

He was released from prison in 2021 after serving less than half of a 10-year sentence for his part in a scheme to funnel millions of dollars from state coffers. As part of his plea bargain, he gave up more than $260 million in cash and assets, including a oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, luxury vehicles, show horses, and several Rolex and Hublot watches.

The trial came as usually hostile relations between the United States and Venezuela begin to thaw after a period of “maximum pressure” during the president’s rule. donald trump to remove the president Nicolas Maduro.

More recently, the government of President Joe Biden eased oil sanctions against the South American OPEC nation, allowing the US company Chevron resume its production in Venezuela after more than three years to support the incipient negotiations between the government and the opposition.

But ongoing criminal investigations against members of the Venezuelan government remain under a microscope in South Florida, home to millions of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans who fled leftist governments in their home countries.

(With information from AP)

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