Two co-conspirators of a billionaire news network owner were sentenced this week as part of the DOJ’s recently unsealed prosecution of a bribery scheme involving over $1 billion paid in bribes to members of the Venezuelan government. According to the DOJ, the owner was indicted under seal in August for conspiracy to violate the FCPA, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of money laundering. Two co-conspirators, Florida resident and former Venezuelan National Treasurer, and Chicago resident and former owner of a Dominican Republic bank, each pleaded guilty under seal to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and were sentenced in federal court earlier this week.
According to the owner’s indictment, he allegedly bribed members of the Venezuelan government—including former Venezuelan National Treasurer—in exchange for the right to handle the government’s foreign currency exchange transactions, and then acquired a bank in order to launder the bribe money and other illicit proceeds. To do so, the owner allegedly moved money from Switzerland to accounts in Florida and New York and used it to purchase luxury items such as “jets, a yacht, multiple champion horses, and numerous high-end watches.”
In December 2017, the former Venezuelan National Treasurer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to taking bribes in exchange for helping his co-conspirators—including the owner—by choosing them to conduct currency exchanges at favorable rates to the Venezuelan government. As part of his plea, the former Venezuelan National Treasurer agreed to cooperate and pay a forfeiture money judgment of $1 billion through the forfeiture of “real estate, vehicles, horses, watches, aircraft, and bank accounts.” On November 27, 2018, U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Robin L. Rosenberg sentenced the former Venezuelan National Treasurer to 10 years in prison, the maximum under his plea deal.
In March 2018, Chicago resident and former owner of a Dominican Republic bank took a similar plea deal, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to helping the owner and others acquire and then launder money through the bank. On November 29, 2018, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
The Miami Herald has also reported that the owner's personal banker was sentenced last month for his role in another money laundering scheme involving a Venezuelan state-owned oil company. Coverage of the company's prosecutions is available here.