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Ex-Venezuelan treasurer near Chavez target the money laundering probe



South Florida US federal agencies are launching a massive money laundering case against a former high-ranking Venezuelan official close to the late President Hugo Chávez, as well as other former high-ranking officials and financial officials who have worked with them.

Alejandro Andrade, a former bodyguard of Chávez, who became treasurer between 2007 and 2010, is suspected of stealing millions of dollars he stole from the Venezuelan government to horses in South Florida and elsewhere and other assets to invest. Miami sources and former Venezuelan government officials familiar with the investigation.

Andrades' acquisitions in South Florida and other parts of the United States are not recorded in public records because the purchases were made by shell companies hiding his property, he said. Andrade and several other members of the Venezuelan government, the banking and business sectors are suspected of enriching themselves by selling billions of dollars in bonds, benefiting from fluctuating exchange rates and hiding their profits on Swiss bank accounts and US assets Investigation stands out from several criminal cases against former Venezuelan officials in recent years, as Andrade was among the most trusted members in Chávez's narrowest circle. The Socialist leader died in 201

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Andrade, 53, frequently traveled in his private jet between Caracas and South Florida since leaving the public office eight years ago, according to sources familiar with his activities and published reports. He's a fixture in Wellington's affluent Palm Beach County community, known for its equestrian competitions and high-society polo games. He owns a house in Wellington and his son has participated in major show jumping tournaments in Venezuela and other parts of the world, according to the Starting Gate Communications advertising agency. Andrade is also a partner in a South Carolina farm that raises show horses and holds equestrian competitions

For many Venezuelan expert observers, drastic oil prices, socialist policies, systemic corruption and the plundering of potentially billions of dollars have made Latin America one of the richest countries in Latin America the poorest in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have been forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries to escape famine while the wealthy invest in luxury apartments and homes in the Miami area.

Corruption is not only prevalent in the government of Chávez's successor, President Nicolás Maduro, but it is also used to maintain its power, said Diego Moya-Ocampos, Latin America's main analyst for IHS Markit, a London-based company that evaluates investment risks around the world.

"Chávez rose to power under the banner of fighting corruption, but the political transformation he initiated in 1999 eventually became a kleptocracy," Moya-Ocampos said. "However, the situation has gotten out of control and the sheer size of all this corruption has resulted in the humanitarian crisis devastating the country."

The US Attorney's Office in Miami declined to comment on Andrade and others. Andrade's defense attorney, former public prosecutor Curtis Miner, was out of the country and did not respond to inquiries from cell phones and emails seeking a comment. Roberto Martinez, a former US lawyer working with Miner in this case, said he could not comment.

Andrade's successor as national treasurer, Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, is also being investigated in the South Florida case on suspicion of money laundering from government bond sales, according to sources familiar with the investigation. It is believed that Diaz, a former naval officer, lived in the Dominican Republic, according to published reports in Venezuela . Her husband, Adrián Velásquez Figueroa, is a former Venezuelan presidential guard.

Other investigators are Venezuelan bankers and businessmen associated with the governments of Chávez and Maduro, it said.

A case against Andrade could have a significant impact on other members of the former government of Chávez and those in the private sector who worked with them. As the national treasurer of Venezuela, Andrade could help investigators in South Florida disentangle the financial secrets of the former regime and track down those who stole them.

Andrade had Venezuelan bank accounts with the Swiss HSBC, which was secretly used to deposit billions of dollars into public funds in 2015, according to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. HSBC was penalized by the US government for $ 1.9 billion in 2012 because drug traffickers, politicians and other clients were allowed to launder their money through their US bank branches.

According to a report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (2015), Andrade had about Venezuelan bank accounts at HSBC from Switzerland, which served to secretly deposit billions of dollars into public money.

According to Venezuelan data, between 1998 and 2007 Switzerland had a total of $ 14.8 billion in HSBC accounts.

It is not illegal to have accounts in Switzerland known for their banking secrecy. But Venezuela's secret accounts at HSBC have raised questions about whether Chávez and other senior government officials have stolen public money, especially at a time when Venezuela was struggling to keep its economy running.

The vast majority of Venezuelan funds appear to be linked to its Treasury Office, which became an HSBC customer in 2005. The bureau, according to the ICIJ and reporters who had access to the data, held $ 11.9 billion in the account. From 2006 to 2007, however, the office had three accounts with $ 698 million. Andrade became treasurer in 2007 and was the only Venezuelan official listed on the country's Swiss bank accounts.

Andrade, who lived in Wellington for a long time, came from humble beginnings, but his fate soared when he died during the reign of the late President Chávez. Some Venezuelan news reports, including the online news site Reportero24, estimated Andrades fortunes at billions of dollars

Chávez always protected Andrade since the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution had almost taken out his friend's right eye while they were playing. Chapita is a type of baseball game played with soda caps instead of balls and a broomstick as a bat and Andrade has his damaged eye replaced by a glass version, according to reports in Venezuela.

Chavez was from Guilt feelings permeated him and had favored him in his years in power, according to reports, including another online news site, elindependiente.com

Andrade, who had graduated from the country's military academy, failed in 1992 at Chávez's coup attempt against the president Six years later, when Chávez successfully ran for president, Andrade served as a bodyguard, and in 1999, Andrade was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which was tasked with writing a new constitution and reorganizing the state, and in 2007 he became National Treasurer and a year later president of the state-owned Bank Bandes [19659002] Andrade became a powerful force for the country's economy. But his critics in the newly formed National Assembly often accused him of corruption and turned over the treasury in Chávez's personal checkbook.

During a congressional hearing in 2008, an opposition MP, Ismael García, said Andrade was at the center of a huge system where the treasury bought bonds from Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia – government bonds that supposedly cost the country more than $ 7 billion and, above all, benefited a small group of civil servants, banks and brokerage firms. His allegations were ignored by the Chavist government.

During his tenure, officials of the National Treasury were suspected by political opponents of issuing dollar and British pound bonds. They were bought in Bolivar by a select group of government officials and businessmen who benefited from heavily subsidized exchange rates. These transactions immediately resulted in colossal gains, as the bonds could later be sold in dollars on international markets.

Chávez & # 39; Planning Minister Jorge Giordani said after the President's death in early 2013 that such corrupt practices would have cost the nation more than $ 20 billion.

Andrade left in 2010 the National Treasury and Presidency of Bandes. According to news, Andrade moved shortly after leaving the government in the United States.


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