Former Venezuelan National Treasurer and Husband Convicted in International Bribery Scheme
MIAMI – A federal jury in the Southern District of Florida has convicted the former National Treasurer of Venezuela and her husband for their roles in a billion-dollar currency exchange, bribery, and money laundering scheme.
Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen, 49, and her spouse, Adrian Jose Velasquez Figueroa, 43, both Venezuelan citizens, were extradited from Madrid, Spain, earlier this year.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Diaz and Velasquez accepted over $100 million in bribes from co-conspirator Raul Gorrin Belisario, 54, a Venezuelan billionaire businessman who owned Globovision news network. Gorrin paid bribes to Diaz, including through her husband Velasquez, in order to obtain access to purchase bonds from the Venezuela National Treasury at a favorable exchange rate, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. The conspiracy involved bulk cash hidden in cardboard boxes, offshore shell companies, Swiss bank accounts, and international wire transfers sent by Gorrin.
“Unfortunately, people in positions of power and public trust sometimes break that trust and use their power for selfish gain,” said U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “We will remain vigilant in our fight against corruption and prosecute guilty parties to the fullest extent.”
That sentiment is shared by the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
“Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen and Adrian Jose Velasquez Figueroa laundered bribes Diaz received as the Venezuelan National Treasurer,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Diaz abused her position as a public official to line her pockets with more than a hundred million dollars, which she and her co-conspirators spent on private jets and yachts and laundered through the U.S. financial system. Whether at home or abroad, the Criminal Division and its partners are committed to vigorously fighting bribery and holding corrupt officials accountable.”
“This verdict sends a clear message to foreign kleptocrats like Diaz and Velasquez Figueroa, who are guilty of theft of billions of dollars using their positions of trust for their own personal gain” said Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Buckley of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office. “HSI Miami’s El Dorado Task Force South will work tirelessly to pursue those individuals and organizations who are involved in this illicit practice and bring them to justice.”
Gorrin was charged by indictment in August 2018 and remains charged in the superseding indictment as a co-conspirator in the same money laundering scheme. He is currently a fugitive residing in Venezuela.
Diaz and Velasquez were each found guilty of one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. Velasquez also was convicted of a second count of money laundering. Diaz and Velasquez are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21, 2023, and face a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
HSI Miami, HSI Houston, HSI Boston, FBI Miami, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) investigated the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter. The department appreciates the significant cooperation provided by authorities in Spain and Switzerland.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kurt Lunkenheimer and Joshua Paster for the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorneys Paul Hayden and Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.