The former nurse of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez was found guilty of money laundering on Tuesday in connection with bribing a media mogul to approve lucrative currency transactions while serving as director of the National Treasury Office.
A South Florida jury deliberated just hours before indicting Claudia Díaz and her husband, Adrian Velasquez, on five of six charges accusing them of accepting bribes totaling at least $4.2 million.
The couple’s trial was seen as a key test of federal prosecutors’ ability to catch Venezuela’s so-called kleptocrats fleeing the oil nation.
According to the indictment, the couple received payments from companies controlled by Raoul Gorin – a media mogul who is currently on the run – in accounts in Miami that were allegedly used to finance the couple’s lavish life.
The government’s case rested largely on the testimony of one of Díaz’s predecessors in the Treasury Office: Alejandro Andrade, who testified from the witness stand that Díaz continued with the financial deal he originally made with Gorín. created.
Like Díaz, Andrade, a former presidential security agent, capitalized on his personal ties to Chávez to rise in the Venezuelan military and politics, amassing a vast fortune almost overnight.
He was released from prison in 2021 after serving less than half of a 10-year sentence for participating in a scheme to launder millions of dollars from state coffers. As part of his plea bargain, he forfeited more than $260 million in cash and assets, including a Palm Beach oceanfront mansion, luxury vehicles, show horses and several Rolex and Hublot watches.
The trial began as typically hostile relations between the United States and Venezuela began to thaw after a period of “maximum pressure” during the Trump administration to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
Most recently, President Joe Biden’s administration eased oil sanctions against the South American OPEC nation, allowing US oil company Chevron to open its doors to Venezuela after more than three years to support ongoing talks between the government and the opposition. Got permission to resume production.
But ongoing criminal investigations against members of the Venezuelan government remain under a microscope in South Florida, home to millions of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans who fled leftist governments in their home countries.
Goodman is on Twitter as: @APJoshGoodman