Venezuela seeks to extradite former official indicted by US
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan is seeking the extradition of a former national treasurer days after U.S. prosecutors say he pleaded guilty to accepting over $1 billion in bribes in a far-reaching corruption probe, officials announced Thursday.
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said his office has launched a case against Alejandro Andrade, a former bodyguard for the late-President Hugo Chavez who ascended the ranks to become Venezuela’s treasurer.
After leaving office, Andrade, 54, moved to the exclusive South Florida enclave of Wellington, known for its lavish horse ranches.
“This person lives in the United States,” said Saab, whose office is asking Interpol to issue an order for Andrade’s detention. “We expect that the United State of America will hand him over to Venezuela.”
Miami prosecutors said that Andrade pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in an indictment unsealed this week.
U.S. officials also this week revealed they had indicted Raul Gorrin, a Venezuelan media tycoon close to President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government who is accused of paying millions in bribes to Andrade and other officials in exchange for lucrative foreign currency deals.
Rigid currency controls in place in Venezuela for over a decade have been a major driver of graft, allowing a privileged few to purchase hard currency from the government at the overvalued official exchange rate and resell on the black market for huge profits.
A Miami resident, Gorrin helped purchase Globovision in 2013 and softened anti-government coverage after becoming president of the popular TV network.
Saab didn’t say whether he’s investigating the 50-year-old Gorrin. Authorities in the U.S. have said that Andrade will forfeit property, horses, vehicles and aircraft.
The far-reaching corruption case also netted Gabriel Arturo Jimenez, a 50-year-old Venezuelan and former owner of a bank in the Dominican Republic. He lives in Chicago.
Jimenez admitted in court to conspiring with Gorrin and others to buy the bank for the purpose of laundering money obtained through bribery, U.S. prosecutors said.