US Sentences Former Venezuela Treasurer for Bribery and Money Laundering

Published: 24 April 2023

Money Laundering handcuffsU.S. court sentenced former treasurer of Venezuela and her husband. (Photo: PxHere, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

A U.S. court has sentenced the former treasurer of Venezuela, Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, and her husband, Adrián José Velásquez Figueroa, to 15 years in prison each for their involvement in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme that lasted almost a decade.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that the couple accepted more than US$136 million in bribes from Raúl Gorrín Belisario, a Venezuelan billionaire businessman who owned Globovision news network. Some of the money was laundered through the U.S. financial system.

According to the statement released by the Department of Justice, Belisario paid bribes to Díaz Guillén, some of which were channeled through her husband, in order to obtain access to purchase bonds from the Venezuelan Office of the National Treasury at a favorable exchange rate. This resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of profit for Belisario. The conspiracy involved hidden cash, offshore shell companies and Swiss bank accounts.

Belisario allegedly transferred some of the funds to benefit Díaz Guillén and Velásquez Figueroa, including the purchase of multiple private jets and yachts, and funding a high-end fashion line they started in South Florida. The DOJ statement added that the couple were convicted of money laundering in December 2022, following a trial.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said that the sentences were a result of the department’s “relentless efforts,” adding that the couple “will serve lengthy prison terms for their roles in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme in which” the former national treasurer “abused her role.”

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida said that the couple’s sentences send a clear message that the U.S. will not tolerate its financial systems being used as personal money laundering tools by corrupt foreign officials.

Meanwhile, Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Buckley of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office pledged to work with global partners to pursue individuals and organizations involved in multibillion-dollar conspiracies and money laundering schemes.

Belisario, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the bribery and money laundering scheme, remains a fugitive residing in Venezuela. However, he was first charged by indictment in August 2018 and remains charged in the superseding indictment as a co-conspirator in the same money laundering scheme.

A few months after the indictment of Belisario, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office imposed sanctions on him, Díaz Guillén and Velásquez Figueroa, along with four other Venezuelans and 23 entities, for their roles in this massive corruption scheme that exploited the country’s currency exchange practices, generating over $2.4bn in corrupt proceeds.