The U.S. Justice Department has accused Raul Gorrin, the owner of Globvision, the Venezuelan television channel and Seguros La Vitalicia, the insurance firm, for bribing officials in the country.
According to a report in Reuters, citing an unsealed indictment in federal court in West Palm Beach, Flordia, Gorrin was charged with violating anti-corruption laws in the U.S. in an effort to win contracts to engage in currency exchange operations for the government. The indictment, noted Reuters, was under seal in August because prosecutors wanted to protect the integrity of the investigation, which was ongoing. Reuters noted that in September Gorrin was named a fugitive. The unsealed charges are expected to help law enforcement arrest him, noted the report, citing court records. Based on the indictment, the Justice Department contends that between 2008 and 2017 Gorrin was behind more than $150 million in bribes to officials in Venezuela’s treasury to gain the right to take part in currency deals. The majority of the money was wired from Swiss bank accounts to Florida, noted the report. Gorrin, who is 49, is accused of buying jets, yachts, champion horses and luxury watches in Florida and Texas with the ill-gotten gains. Reuters noted that Gorrin’s whereabouts aren’t clear. The executive does face a maximum penalty of 45 years if he is found guilty.
Under late President Hugo Chaves, Venezuela has sold heavily-subsidized dollars via state currency agencies and government auctions. Dollars on the black market, however, have garnered at least double and in some cases 10 times more noted Reuters. That enables well-connected people to purchase deeply discounted dollars and then resell them for a big profit, noted the report. In August Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly voted to legalize money exchange operations in an effort to relax the government’s strict currency controls. According to Reuters, economists say it’s unlikely that President Nicolás Maduro’s government would do away completely with the controls. The country is in its fifth year of recession, with inflation expected to hit 1 million percent this year. It is currently at 14,000 percent.