The U.S. Department of the Treasury placed sanctions on a Venezuelan media mogul and the country’s former national treasurer on Tuesday for a wide-ranging $2.4 billion alleged corruption scheme involving South Florida luxury real estate.
The agency’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted seven people including former Venezuelan National Treasurer Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen and Raúl Antonio Gorrín Belisario, according to a release. The sanctions freeze their assets and U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
The defendants allegedly laundered money by bribing Venezuela’s national treasury in order to tap into Venezuela’s special fixed currency exchange rate available to government enterprises. The fixed rate is much more favorable than the market rate available to Venezuelan civilians.
Gorrín, president of the news channel Globovision, siphoned this money into about 24 real estate properties in New York and South Florida, according to an indictment. Most of these real estate holdings were in luxury real estate, including a condo in Dezer Development’s Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach and a unit in the Baccarat Hotel and Residences at 20 West 53rd Street in New York City.
The residences also include luxury homes in Miami’s Cocoplum neighborhood and six in Manhattan. He was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and money laundering.
Gorrín’s attorney Howard Srebnick could not immediately be reached for comment.
The government alleges Gorrín tapped into Venezuela’s foreign currency exchange system by gaining contracts from National Treasurer Alejandro Jose Andrade Cedeno. Andrade was sentenced on Nov. 27 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida to 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said Andrade received cash as well as private jets, yachts, cars, homes, champion horses, and high-end watches from his co-conspirators. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit his assets, which included 17 champion show horses and five real estate properties in Palm Beach County.
Wealthy Venezuelans were able to move money overseas to luxury assets, while the rest of the country battles hyperinflation and food shortages.