I recently had a conversation with a lawyer who speculated that the recent spate of Venezuela-focused Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions was part of a U.S. government effort to facilitate regime change in the country.
The latest is this recently unsealed criminal indictment against Raul Gorrin Belisario, a well-known Venezuelan businessman and described by the DOJ as a citizen and national of Venezuela who at various time periods relevant to the charges was a resident of the U.S. with a residence in Florida.
According to the criminal indictment, Gorrin “offered and agreed to pay bribes to Foreign Official 1 [described as a high-level official with decision-making authority and influence within the Oficina Nacional del Tesoro (ONT), the Venezuelan National Treasury] for purposes of obtaining and retaining business; specifically, influencing and inducing Foreign Official 1 to permit Gorrin to conduct foreign currency exchanges for the Venezuelan government and securing an improper advantage in acquiring the right to conduct such exchange transactions.”
Specifically, the DOJ alleges that Gorrin caused bribe payments totaling at least approximately $94 million to be paid for the benefit of Foreign Official 1 including, after Foreign Official 1 left office, for introducing him to Foreign Official 2 (also described as a high-level official with decision-making authority and influence within the ONT) and facilitating the continuation of the bribery scheme with Foreign Official 2.
According to the DOJ, in addition to wiring money to and for the benefit of Foreign Official 1, Foreign Official 2, and Co-conspirator 1 (described as the spouse of Foreign Official 2), Gorrin “also purchased and paid expenses related to approximately three jets, a yacht, multiple champion horses, and numerous high-end watches … for Foreign Official 1’s benefit” and “purchased and paid expenses related to jets and a yacht .. for Foreign Official 2 and Co-Conspirator 1’s benefit.”
The DOJ’s conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions charge invokes both the dd-2 prong of the statute applicable to “domestic concerns” as well as the dd-3 prong of the statute applicable to “person other than issuers or domestic concerns.” As to the later, the DOJ alleges conduct in the U.S. such as meetings in which bribe payments were discussed as well as the use of U.S. bank accounts.
In addition to the FCPA charge, Gorrin is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and several substantive money laundering offenses.
For more on the enforcement action, see here from the Miami Herald.
In addition to the Gorrin charges, the DOJ also announced:
“Alejandro Andrade Cedeno (Andrade), 54, a Venezuelan citizen residing in Wellington, Florida and a former Venezuelan national treasurer, pleaded guilty under seal on Dec. 22, 2017 before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg of the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray (Jimenez), 50, a Venezuelan citizen residing in Chicago, Illinois and former owner of Banco Peravia bank, pleaded guilty under seal on March 20, 2018 in the Southern District of Florida before Judge Rosenberg to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Charges against Andrade and Jimenez were unsealed today. “
As stated in the DOJ’s release:
“As part of his guilty plea, Andrade admitted that he received over $1 billion in bribes from Gorrin and other co-conspirators in exchange for using his position as Venezuelan national treasurer to select them to conduct currency exchange transactions for the Venezuelan government. As part of his plea agreement, Andrade agreed to a forfeiture money judgment of $1 billion and forfeiture of all assets involved in the corrupt scheme, including real estate, vehicles, horses, watches, aircraft and bank accounts. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 27. As part of his guilty plea, Jimenez admitted that, as part of the scheme, he conspired with Gorrin and others to acquire Banco Peravia, through which he helped launder bribe money and scheme proceeds. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 29.”
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