The former national treasurer of Venezuela was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday (November 27), Reuters reported.
Alejandro Andrade, who for four years oversaw the treasury under the late leader Hugo Chavez, secretly pleaded guilty in December of 2017. He pleaded to one count of money laundering, and he was accused of accepting more than $1 billion in bribes to participate in an illegal foreign currency scheme.
Andrade’s plea was unsealed last week, and the 120-month sentence was the maximum he could receive. His case is part of a broader effort by the U.S. Government to tamp down on the exploitation of the U.S. financial system by Venezuela. The country has rampant hyperinflation on its own currency.
Andrade took the bribes and used his influence to aid a billionaire TV magnate and other influential persons to exchange currency at favorable rates for everyone.
The scheme, according to the U.S. Justice Department, involved influential and connected people buying highly-subsidized dollars with the help of currency agencies or government-sponsored auctions, and then selling them on the black market. Black market dollars often resell for double their value, and sometimes up to 10 times more, bringing in obscene profits.
The brokerages that bribed Andrade would give him kickbacks and buy him things — including 17 horses, 35 luxury watches, 12 automobiles and six houses in Florida.
Curtis Miner, Andrade’s lawyer, released a statement saying that Andrade is eager to continue his cooperation and that “as part of our agreement with the government, we expect to return to court to revisit the sentence that the judge imposed today.”
Venezuela’s current president, Nicolas Maduro, hasn’t spoken about the case much, according to Reuters. However, he said that America is trying to undermine his government through continued financial sanctions.