What is Venezuela's lifestyle

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Investigations by the US judiciary into corruption are increasingly focused on members of the "Bolivarian bourgeoisie". High-ranking people close to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are accused of embezzling state funds. Funds are also said to have flowed into Switzerland.

This content was published on December 11, 2018 - 11:00 am
François Pilet, Gotham City *

The so-called "Bolibourgeois", powerful Venezuelan businessmen, are said to have diverted more than a billion dollars in public funds to finance, among other things, their lavish lifestyles in the United States.

For example, Alejandro Andrade, a former Chavez bodyguard who was appointed finance minister in 2007, pleaded guilty to corruption on November 19. The former Venezuelan minister, who owned a ranch with racehorses in Florida, was sentenced to ten years in prison.

The court records examined by Gotham City show how the "Bolibourgeois" relied on Swiss banks to hide funds.

Andrade alone had 17 accounts at nine Swiss banks, including HSBC, Julius Baer, ​​Credit Suisse, Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique in Geneva and PKB in Lugano.

With the admission of guilt, the former minister agreed that all of his accounts would be blocked and their contents transferred to the American courts. The amounts seized were not disclosed.

The former Treasury Secretary admitted taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes. In return, he helped a group of business people embezzle more than a billion dollars in public funds.

Among them was the Venezuelan media magnate Raul Gorrin, who also preferred Swiss bank accounts. The owner of the Venezuelan media group Globovision transferred bribes to the minister directly from his personal account at HSBC Private Banking (Suisse) SA in Geneva. Gorrin was also indicted by the American judiciary on November 20, 2018.

Racehorses, yachts, private jets, luxury watches

The charges against Gorrin and Andrade show that media magnate Gorrin also took care of the veterinary care of Andrade's racehorses - he owned 17 of them - and the cost of three private jets and a yacht from his HSBC account.

The ex-minister of the "Bolivarian Revolution" by Hugo Chavez was also a fan of Swiss luxury watches. He owned 34 of them, including eight Hublot, five Franck Muller and four Audermars Piguet.

Gorrin is said to have continued this pattern of corruption after Andrade's departure: He also bribed Minister Claudia Diaz, who had replaced him. Chavez had raised his former nurse to this post in 2011.

An investigation has been opened against Diaz in the United States and an extradition request is pending to Spain, where she lives with her husband, who is also a former bodyguard of the late president.

Maduro to Chavez

Investigations by the US Department of Justice are no longer limited to Chavez's elected officials, but also to the current head of state, Nicolas Maduro.

At the end of 2017, Raul Gorrin met US Vice President Mike Pence. According to the Miami Herald newspaper, the businessman is said to have tried to negotiate the disempowerment of Maduro. This in return for a dismissal of the American claims against him and the "Bolibourgeois". It now appears that these efforts have not been as successful as expected.

* Gotham CityExterner Link is a newsletter founded by investigative journalists Marie Maurisse and François Pilet, which specializes in research into white-collar crime.

The newsletter informs its subscribers every week about cases of fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with the Swiss financial center on the basis of publicly accessible legal documents.

Once a month, Gotham City adds further information to one of its articles and makes it freely available to swissinfo.ch readers.

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