Miami court rules Venezuelan $72 million fraud case can be brought in U.S.

A Florida state appeals court has cleared the way for a fierce legal battle between two former executives of Venezuela’s Banco Federal and two Venezuelan businesses that charge the former executives stole $72 million by shifting funds into U.S. Treasury Bills.

In the suit, Publicidad Vepaco, a Venezuelan advertising agency, and LaTele Television, a regional television network, accuse Nelson Mezerhane, who was the owner of Banco Federal, and Rogelio Trujillo, the former CEO of the bank, of diverting the funds via three Curaçao-based entities.

A Miami-Dade judge initially threw out the suit, saying the court did not have jurisdiction and that the suit should have included the Curaçao-based entities. Miami’s state appeals court on Wednesday reversed the trial court’s ruling.

Mezerhane and Trujillo fled Venezuela during the Chavez goverment and have been living in Florida since 2010.

Efforts to move money from Venezuela to the U.S. have intensified in recent years as inflation in the Latin American country has risen to more than 60 percent, making it the world’s highest.

Mezerhane, who is seeking political asylum in the U.S. and was a co-owner of anti-Chavez television network Globovision, was in Florida when the Venezuelan government took over Banco Federal and seized his 20 percent stake in the TV station.

In November 2011, Mezerhane filed a 124-page lawsuit in Miami against the Venezuelan government, claiming Banco Federal and his stake in the Globovision network were illegally seized for political reasons. The lawsuit, which sought $1billion in damages, was eventually dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported.