US sentence reduced for Hugo Chavez’s former bodyguard
MIAMI (AP) — Hugo Chávez’s former bodyguard, who became one of the earliest and most-effective witnesses for U.S. investigations into corruption in Venezuela, is scheduled to be released from prison in the coming months.
On Tuesday, a Miami federal judge reduced from 10 years to 42 months a sentence handed down against Alejandro Andrade in 2018. He has been detained since February 2019.
Andrade was a bodyguard to Chávez who rose through the ranks of his socialist administration to become Venezuela’s treasurer. After leaving office a decade ago, Andrade moved to south Florida, where he bought a lavish horse farm.
In 2017, he pleaded guilty to his role in a foreign currency conspiracy that siphoned hundreds of millions from state coffers. As part of his plea agreement, Andrade has forfeited more than $260 million in cash and assets, including an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion, luxury vehicles, show-jumping horses and several Rolex and Hublot watches.
Andrade’s early assistance has allowed prosecutors to build cases against a number of insiders from Chávez’s administration, including his successor as treasurer, Claudia Díaz, who is facing extradition from Spain.
He’s also a key witness against Venezuelan media mogul Raul Gorrin, who prosecutors allege paid bribes to Andrade for contracts to buy dollars at the highly overvalued official exchange rate. He then would allegedly resell the hard currency on the black market, turning a huge profit.
Gorrin, head of Globovision network, is also charged but is a fugitive. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The massive 65% sentence reduction comes as prosecutors now turn their attention to corruption in the administration of Chávez’s successor: Nicolás Maduro. This week, businessman Alex Saab made his first appearance in Miami federal court after a 16-month fight to avoid extradition from Cape Verde, where he was arrested on a fueling stop while flying to Iran.
Saab was indicted in 2019 on money-laundering charges for allegedly bribing Venezuelan officials and falsifying import documents to pocket more than $350 million from a low-income housing project. On the same day as his indictment, he was sanctioned by the Trump administration for allegedly utilizing a network of shell companies spanning the globe — Turkey, Hong Kong, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — to hide windfall profits from overvalued food contracts.
Attorneys for Andrade didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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