On April 19, 2023, the US Department of Justice announced that Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillen, the former National Treasurer of Venezuela, and her husband, Adrian José Velásquez, were each sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for their roles in a multibillion-dollar, international bribery and money laundering scheme. The couple was sentenced just months after a federal jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida found them guilty, in December 2022, of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition to the 15-year prison terms, each defendant received 3 years’ supervised release and was ordered to forfeit approximately $137 million.
According to court documents, while serving as the treasurer of Venezuela, Díaz, with the help of her husband, accepted and laundered more than $137 million in bribes from co-conspirator Raúl Gorrin Belisario, a Venezuelan billionaire businessman who owns Globovisión news network. Gorrin allegedly bribed Díaz so that he and his companies could benefit from favorable currency exchange rates and have the right to purchase UK bonds from the Venezuelan treasury. The scheme allegedly generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and provided Díaz and Velásquez with a lavish lifestyle, which included real properties and farms, multiple private jets and yachts, and a high-end fashion line that Díaz intended to operate after she left the Treasury. According to federal prosecutors, Díaz usually received the bribes through her husband, Velásquez, in the form of bulk cash payments hidden in cardboard boxes – funds that he attempted to conceal through the creation and use of shell companies and offshore bank accounts.
Gorrin was the first co-conspirator to be charged in the scheme. In 2018, US authorities charged him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and multiple counts of money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. According to the DOJ, Gorrin currently resides in Venezuela and remains at large. In 2019, Gorrin, Díaz and Velásquez were designated (along with 4 other individuals and 23 entities) by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) for their participation in a corrupt currency exchange operation. On October 30, 2020, Díaz and Velásquez were charged with multiple money laundering offenses for their roles in the scheme.