What happens when you concentrate economic control in the hands of a few government leaders? Corruption. This week the U.S. government unsealed an indictment and a guilty plea involving two Venezuelans closely tied to the country’s socialist government who were involved in a massive, billion dollar fraud scheme.
Alejandro Andrade started out as a bodyguard for Hugo Chavez and eventually became the country’s treasurer from 2007 to 2010. That put him in a perfect position to dole out favors to those willing to pay for them. Specifically, Venezuela has long maintained a series of official exchange rates for currency. Those able to exchange currency at favorable rates could then sell the currency at black market rates for an instant return.
Raul Gorrin Belisario is a Venezuelan billionaire who allegedly paid up to $1 billion in bribes to Andrade in exchange for access to those favorable exchange rates. A third man, Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, funneled money through a bank he owned in the Dominican Republic. Both Andrade and Gorrin then took the profits from the fraud scheme and invested in high-end real estate inside the United States. Here’s how socialists live in Palm Beach County Florida:
Andrade was staying at his equestrian ranch in the affluent Wellington community of Palm Beach County while assisting authorities in the massive foreign corruption and money-laundering probe. But last week, federal agents seized his Wellington properties, including 17 prized show horses, as part of a forfeiture action.
The horses, with names like Bonjovi, Hardrock Z and Tinker Bell, were imported from various parts of Europe, court records show. Andrade’s son, Emanuel, used them to compete in show-jumping events in South Florida and other parts of the world.
Federal agents also seized Andrade’s fleet of luxury vehicles, from a 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 550 to a 2015 Bentley Continental Convertible, along with numerous U.S. and Swiss bank accounts, and a vast collection of high-end watches.
Andrade and Jimenez have already pleaded guilty. Venezuela announced that it wants to see Andrade extradited because, of course, they are shocked that someone has committed such a crime.
Meanwhile, Gorrin has been indicted for, allegedly, masterminding the entire scheme. In 2013 he and others bought the news network Globovision and then softened its coverage of the Maduro regime. As the Washington Post pointed out in 2013, Globovisions sale was particularly important because it was the last remaining television outlet that was critical of Chavismo:
In his 14-year-rule, President Hugo Chavez zeroed in on the country’s four major private television news outlets, shutting down one and co-opting two others to neutralize critical coverage of his self-styled revolutionary government.
One network, Globovision, has been left standing, surviving Chavez, who died last month. But as Venezuela prepares for a presidential election Sunday that Chavez’s handpicked successor is expected to win, it appears that Globovision’s days as a freewheeling, highly critical opponent of the government are numbered…
The government’s antagonism toward Globovision has roots in a 2002 coup that briefly toppled Chavez.
Globovision, along with other private TV outlets, promoted protests in the days before the overthrow and celebrated Chavez’s ouster. And then Globovision blacked out coverage of a popular uprising that reinstalled Chavez to the presidency.
But the government never leveled charges against Globovision executives and never offered detailed proof that they were behind plots to destabilize the government and assassinate Chavez, as the late president frequently alleged.
Instead, Globovision has been punished in myriad other ways. Cameramen are roughed up in the street, and one well-known presenter was doused with urine.
Helping to prop up the socialist government must have been good for business. It was certainly good for Gorrin who has also been living very well. NPR reports his indictment seeks the seizure of 24 luxury properties he owns in Florida and New York.
Socialism always starts with the promise to give everything to everyone and usually ends with a few people at the top taking everything while everyone else goes hungry.