The Discreet Charm of the Boliburguésia

In the 1972 movie The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, director Luis Buñuel mordantly depicted a “decaying European aristocracy” incapable of coming to terms with its own deep-seated moral corruption and hypocrisy.  Though critically acclaimed in its time, that film would likely be banned today in Venezuela, where the Boliburguesía — an elite of individuals who amassed substantial wealth and influence during the Chávez and Maduro presidencies, largely through bribery of government officials — have been integral to Venezuela’s kleptocracy.

Since 2017, a series of prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice in the Southern District of Florida has begun to dislodge key members of the Boliburguésia and their support network, and to expose the scope and scale of corruption and money laundering in Venezuela:

  • Alejandro Andrade:
    • On December 19, 2017, Alejandro Andrade Cedeno, the former Venezuelan National Treasurer, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, to forfeiture, and to cooperate with the U.S. Government. Andrade faces a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.  In addition, 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.”  Andrade’s European-imported sport horses alone reportedly “range in value from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.”
    • In his factual proffer, Andrade acknowledged that from 2007 to 2011, he “agreed to accept bribes from co-conspirators in exchange for selecting them to carry out the U.S. dollar to bolivar exchange process with the [Venezuelan National Treasury], which allowed those co-conspirators to obtain substantial profits on the exchange transactions.” Andrade received bribes from this arrangement as late as November 2017.
    • In connection with his plea, Andrade admitted that he received more than $1 billion in bribes from Raul Gorrin Belisario, a Venezuelan billionaire and owner of the Globovision news network, and other co-conspirators in exchange for using his position as Venezuelan National Treasurer for the bolivar exchange transactions described above.
  • Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray:
    • On March 20, 2018, Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, the former owner of the Dominican Republic bank Banco Peravia, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, to forfeiture, and to cooperate with the U.S. Government. Jiminez faces a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.
    • In connection with 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.” Gorrin also allegedly partnered with Jimenez to acquire Banco Peravia ”to launder bribes paid to Venezuelan officials and proceeds of the scheme.”
  • Matthias Krull:
    • On October 29, 2018, Matthias Krull, the former managing director and vice chairman of Julius Baer, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and a $600,000 forfeiture after pleading guilty to conspiracy to launder money. In connection with his plea, Krull, who had initially been arrested on July 25, 2018, admitted that he attracted Venezuelan clients to his bank and that the money-laundering conspiracy began in December 2014
      • “with a currency exchange scheme that was designed to embezzle around $600 million from [Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA)], obtained through bribery and fraud and the conspirators’ efforts to launder a portion of the proceeds of that scheme. By May 2015, the conspiracy had doubled in amount to $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA.”
    • Krull also admitted that he joined the conspiracy to launder $1.2 billion worth of funds embezzled from PDVSA, and that he and other members of the conspiracy used Miami real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal the fact that the $1.2 billion was embezzled from PDVSA. He further admitted “that surrounding and supporting these false-investment laundering schemes are complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers.”  As a previous DTG post noted, Krull reportedly is cooperating with U.S. authorities.
  • Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez Frieri:
    • Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez Frieri, a Colombian national and naturalized U.S. citizen, reportedly faces extradition from Italy to the United States, after being arrested in Sicily on July 25, 2018. At that time, Frieri was charged, with Matthias Krull and six other individuals (who were at large at that time), with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
  • Raul Gorrin Belisario:
    • On November 20, 2018, the Department of Justice announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Gorrin for his role in a billion-dollar currency exchange and money laundering scheme. The indictment included one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of money laundering.
    • The allegations against Gorrin involve both Andrade and Jiminez. Gorrin allegedly
      • “paid millions of dollars in bribes to two high-level Venezuelan officials, including Andrade, to secure the rights to conduct foreign currency exchange transactions at favorable rates for the Venezuelan government. In addition to wiring money to and for the officials, Gorrin allegedly purchased and paid expenses for them related to private jets, yachts, homes, champion horses, high-end watches and a fashion line.  To conceal the bribe payments, Gorrin made payments through multiple shell companies.  Gorrin allegedly partnered with Jimenez to acquire Banco Peravia . . . to launder bribes paid to Venezuelan officials and proceeds of the scheme.”

Andrade is scheduled to be sentenced on November 27, and Jiminez on November 29.  Given Krull’s  ten-year sentence as a presumptive cooperator, it should not be surprising if both Andrade and Jiminez also receive ten-year sentences and continue their cooperation in the hope of receiving a sentence reduction.  Now that they have, so to speak, cleared the first hurdle, it remain to be seen whether Gorrin and other co-conspirators will follow their lead or refuse the jump and face a more perilous landing.

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