Ex-Venezuelan treasurer remains locked up. Federal judge denies bail in Miami corruption case

·3 min read
Paul White/AP

A former Venezuelan national treasurer extradited from Spain to South Florida in mid-May lost her bid for bail Tuesday as she awaits trial in South Florida on charges of accepting millions in bribes from a billionaire businessman who paid her and her husband through Miami bank accounts.

Former Venezuelan treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, 49, hoped to persuade Magistrate Judge William Matthewman to release her from a federal lock-up by allowing her to stay with her mother-in-law at a home in Key Biscayne. But Matthewman sided with federal prosecutors, who urged him to reject her request for a $1 million personal surety bond, saying she was a flight risk.

Díaz’s defense attorney, Marissel Descalzo, argued for her client’s release on bond and entered her not guilty plea at an arraignment Tuesday in West Palm Beach federal court.

Díaz was charged in 2020 with accepting the bribes from Raul Gorrín, who has had close relationships with Venezuela’s socialist presidents over the past decade. Her husband, Adrián Velásquez Figueroa, awaits extradition from Spain.

A federal grand jury charged all three defendants with foreign-corruption and money-laundering conspiracies, built upon an earlier case brought against Gorrín in 2018. The connection to Miami’s banking system is the foundation of the money-laundering case, which centers on the Venezuelan treasury’s issuance of bonds and the Gorrín-led group’s exploitation of the government’s bolivar-dollar exchange system.

All three defendants are accused of using Miami bank accounts to receive and hide millions stolen from the Venezuelan government a decade ago, according to an indictment.

Gorrín, 54, who owns a TV station in Venezuela along with now-frozen luxury properties in Miami and New York, is accused of playing the lead role in the alleged bribery conspiracy during the presidency of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013. Gorrín, who has been designated a fugitive in the Miami case, continued to wield his influence during the presidency of Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.

“ln total, [Gorrín] paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to secure the rights to engage in over $1 billion in foreign currency exchange transactions that resulted in profits to [him] of hundreds of millions of dollars,” the indictment says. To secure “this improper advantage” Gorrín used both personal and corporate bank accounts “to wire bribe payments” to Miami for Díaz and her husband as well as her predecessor as Venezuela’s national treasurer, the indictment says.

Díaz succeeded Alejandro Andrade as Venezuela’s treasurer. Andrade, who had once been Chávez’s bodyguard, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in 2018 after cooperating with U.S. authorities and secretly providing evidence on Díaz, her husband, Gorrín, and a Venezuelan banker who operated a bank in the Dominican Republic to steer some of the bribery payments to the group, according to the indictment and other court records.

The couple, along with Gorrín, are among dozens of former Venezuelan government officials, business people and associates who have been charged with money laundering in Miami stemming from a series of foreign corruption probes led by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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