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April 20, 2023Miami, FL, United StatesFinancial Crimes

Former Venezuelan national treasurer and husband sentenced in money laundering, international bribery scheme

MIAMI — The former National Treasurer of Venezuela and her husband were each sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison for their roles in a multibillion-dollar bribery and money laundering scheme.

According to court documents, Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillen, 49, and her husband, Adrian José Velásquez, 43, accepted and laundered over $136 million in bribes from co-conspirator Raúl Gorrin Belisario, a Venezuelan billionaire businessman who owned Globovision news network. Gorrin allegedly paid bribes to Díaz, including through Velásquez, to obtain access to purchase bonds from Venezuela’s National Treasury at a favorable exchange rate, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of profit. The conspiracy involved bulk cash hidden in cardboard boxes, offshore shell companies, Swiss bank accounts, and international wire transfers allegedly sent by Gorrin for Díaz and Velásquez’s benefit, including to purchase multiple private jets and yachts and to fund a high-end fashion line Díaz and Velásquez started in South Florida.

“The significant sentencings and judgments imposed today against Díaz and Velásquez Figueroa demonstrate that individuals who use their positions of trust to launder illicitly obtained funds through the U.S. financial systems will be held accountable,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami acting Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Buckley. “HSI Miami’s El Dorado Task Force South will continue to work with our global partners to pursue those individuals and organizations who are involved in these multibillion-dollar conspiracies and money laundering schemes.”

“As a result of the Department of Justice’s relentless efforts, the defendants will serve lengthy prison terms for their roles in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme in which Díaz abused her role as the Venezuelan National Treasurer,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As this prosecution demonstrates, the Criminal Division never wavers in its determination to hold accountable corrupt officials who subvert the rule of law and use our financial system to launder money related to their illicit schemes.”

“The sentences imposed against former Venezuelan National Treasurer Díaz and her husband send a clear message: The United States will not tolerate its financial systems being used as personal money laundering tools by corrupt foreign officials,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida.

Díaz and Velásquez were each convicted after trial in December 2022 of money laundering offenses. Gorrin was first 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.

HSI Miami, FBI Miami, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General investigated the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance. The department appreciates the significant cooperation provided by authorities in Spain and Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.