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Venezuela national treasurer, TV magnate hit with U.S. sanctions

Venezuelan media mogul Raul Gorrín shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence last year.
Venezuelan media mogul Raul Gorrín shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence last year. Miami Herald file

The United States slapped sanctions on seven prominent Venezuelans — including the owners of the Globovisión television station and nine Miami-based companies — for using the country’s byzantine currency exchange system to amass more than $2.4 billion in “corrupt proceeds.”

The sanctions issued Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control are aimed at Venezuela’s former National Treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz and television mogul and businessman Raúl Gorrín, who was indicted in U.S. courts in November, accused of bribing Venezuelan officials and money laundering.

Five other people and 23 companies related to the web of corruption were also sanctioned Tuesday. Among the assets targeted were Globovisión Tele C.A., a 24-hour news station that’s influential in Venezuela. That company, which Gorrín purchased in 2013, is registered in both Venezuela and Miami. However, the government said it was issuing a one-year general license that would allow the network “to continue operating by authorizing specific activities that would otherwise be prohibited.”

At the heart of the corruption scheme is Venezuela’s multi-tiered foreign exchange system that has allowed some to become fabulously wealthy even as the nation struggles to import food and medicine. According to the U.S. Treasury, Díaz and her predecessor, Alejandro Andrade, used their positions of power to handpick the currency exchange houses that the government did business with. While the national treasury traded in dollars at the official exchange rate, the currency exchange houses would then sell those dollars on the black market at much higher prices “resulting in massive profits.”

According to the U.S. government, Gorrín’s currency houses were the beneficiaries of the scheme. In exchange, the two government officials received hundreds of millions in bribes in the form of property, horses and jewelry.

Andrade, who served as national treasurer between 2007 and 2010, was charged in the United States with conspiring to commit money laundering in late 2017. He pleaded guilty in December and is cooperating with federal authorities.

Among those named in Tuesday’s sanctions were Díaz’s husband, Adrian José Velásquez; Gorrín’s wife, Maria Alexandra Perdomo; Gorrín’s brother-in-law and business partner, Gustavo Adolfo Perdomo; and Perdomo’s wife, Mayela Antonina Tarascio-Pérez. Leonardo González, who is described as a “front man” for Andrade and Venezuelan military and political figures, was also sanctioned.

Also listed are almost two dozen companies, including Miami-based Globovisión, Corpomedios, RIM Group Investments and Magus Holdings. Under the sanctions, U.S. residents and citizens are not allowed to conduct business with any of those named or their companies.

“Venezuelan regime insiders have plundered billions of dollars from Venezuela while the Venezuelan people suffer,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “Our actions against this corrupt currency exchange network expose yet another deplorable practice that Venezuela regime insiders have used to benefit themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people. The United States remains committed to holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and will continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to support the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy.”

Washington and Caracas have been at odds for years, but the Trump administration has ratcheted up its targeted and broader economic sanctions against Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolás Maduro and his wife. On Thursday, Maduro is slated to begin a new six-year term.