Venezuela: Operation Money Flight

August 6, 2018 Crime , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER , South America

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By

Ricardo Swire

 

 

The United States Homeland Security Investigations’ affidavit filed Monday July 23, 2018 in a Miami federal court outlined Venezuela as “a state of social, political and economic crisis. A place in which multibillion dollar corrupt, criminal ecosystems thrive and drive rivers of criminal proceeds through South Florida.” The legal document further described Venezuela as “an international money laundering hub and a desirable destination for well-to-do foreign criminals and kleptocrats.”

 

Operation Money Flight’s two year investigation exposed Venezuelan entrepreneurs and national officials who were provided with “moniker boliburgues.” Between 2014 and 2015 these high-level connivers embezzled more than US$1.2 billion from Petroleos de Venezuela S.A (PDVSA), the state owned oil titan. They attempted to clean some stolen government monies via American and European financial institutions. The web of former Venezuelan officials also invested a significant portion of illegal cash in South Florida properties and assets.

 

To leverage unofficial profits schemers used access to the government’s foreign currency exchange system, the advantage of its preferred rate instead of daily national fluctuations used to convert bolivars to US dollars and Euros. In December 2014, when the true economic rate was Bolivars 60 to US$1, Venezuela’s money laundering racket began with a US$600 million PDVSA misappropriation scheme. The cash was generated via payola and fraud. As of May 2015 PDVSA’s racketeering mushroomed to US$1.2 billion.

 

A German conspirator managed the “banking” activities for several named Venezuelan officials and kleptocrats. One detained facilitator was a male forty-four year old Panamanian banker based in Switzerland. In early 2016 a suspect Venezuelan money laundering kingpin secretly approached US HSI investigators and requested a plea bargain in return for full cooperation. He wore a HSI sponsored wire or hidden recording device while laundering US$78 million worth of stolen PDVSA funds, received from a loan contract provided by the oil company.

 

On Wednesday July 25, 2018 Operation Money Flight’s international law enforcement cooperation allowed investigators to detain a male forty-five year old Colombian born naturalized American citizen in Italy. The Colombian used Global Security Advisors and Global Strategic Investments, two Miami headquartered financial companies, to clean stolen Venezuelan government money through bogus mutual fund investments. The South American country’s Ministry of Oil & Mining’s ex legal counsel was another prominent participant in the white-collar schemes.

 

He used his unofficial money to buy a condominium at the Porsche Design Tower in Miami. The fifty-three year old former PDVSA Executive Director of Finance plus another named businessman aka “Bolichico” were also part of the boliburgues or country’s elite exposed by Operation Money Flight. Between 2007 and 2010 a former presidential bodyguard turned national treasurer laundered millions of dollars worth of stolen government money. The former state official used shell companies as a smoke screen to make high value overseas real estate and show horse purchases in South Florida.

 

The ex PDVSA executive was a fixture among the Wellington, Palm Beach County community, especially horse riding competitions and polo matches. As a business partner in a South Carolina farm he bred show horses and sponsored equestrian competitions. During the course of eight years he journeyed back and forth between Caracas and South Florida aboard a private jet. The senior female naval officer, who succeeded as Venezuela’s national treasurer, is also named as a money launderer in the South Florida probe. The cash was stolen from illegal government bond sales. She has absconded to the Dominican Republic, temporarily out of the investigation’s reach.

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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