Ex-Swiss Banker Pleads Guilty to $1B Money Laundering Conspiracy
Matthias Krull, a German national and resident of Panama, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in the Southern District of Florida (Miami Division) to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga on Oct. 29. The 44-year-old man, who was employed at a Swiss bank where he was a Managing Director and Vice Chairman, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). In addition, federal prosecutors have moved to seize 17 South Florida properties allegedly tied to the scheme.
Pursuant to a stipulated statement of facts entered in conjunction with the plea, Krull’s role was as “a banker and money laundering facilitator” in an international conspiracy that began in 2014 and was used to launder $1.2 billion worth of funds embezzled from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA by Venezuelan officials, who authorized the embezzlement in exchange for kickbacks. The embezzlement operated by way of a PDVSA foreign-currency exchange scheme that was disguised as a “financing” arrangement using contractual documents in an attempt to hide the embezzlement. Krull and members of the money laundering conspiracy used South Florida real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal that the $1.2 billion was in fact embezzled from PDVSA.
The investigation started after a confidential source started cooperating with U.S. authorities and met with the defendants about money laundering schemes, according to the indictment. The indictment indicates that several unnamed parties – a billionaire who owns a television network in Venezuela and a powerful government official in Venezuela – asked the defendants to launder money for them.
Krull admitted that he knew he was participating in an illegal money laundering conspiracy and that the funds he was attempting to conceal and transact in were the proceeds of criminal activity and bribery in particular.
Read the DOJ Press Release here: Former Swiss Bank Executive Pleads Guilty to Role in Billion-Dollar International Money Laundering Scheme Involving Funds Embezzled from Venezuelan State-Owned Oil Company
The indictment lists the following South Florida properties as subject to forfeiture because they were allegedly related to the money laundering scheme:
- Unit 2205 in Porsche Design Tower at 18555 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach. The federal indictment alleges that Urdaneta and Amparan purchased this 3,171-square-foot condo for $5.3 million through Paladium Real Estate Group LLC by using their wives as the managing members. The deal was essentially a fee paid by Urdaneta to Amparan for helping him launder money, according to the indictment.
- 597 Hibiscus Lane, Miami, a 3,962-square-foot home purchased for $2.73 million by a trust linked to Hernandez Frieri.
- 225 27th Street, Apartments A through F, Miami Beach, which were bought for $3.15 million in 2015 by a company associated with Urdaneta.
- 2030 Douglas Road, Unit 704, Coral Gables, a 1,496-square-foot condo in the Minorca building that was acquired for $467,000 in 2013 by a company associated with Urdaneta.
- 194 Isla Dorada Blvd., Coral Gables, a 4,625-square-foot home bought for $2.25 million in 2014.
- 6995 Prado Blvd., Coral Gables, a 4,406-square-foot home bought for $4.75 million in 2016.
- 6905 Prado Blvd., Coral Gables, a 5,211-square-foot home bought for $2.23 million in 2011.
- 465 Brickell Ave., Unit 619, Miami, this 1,325-square-foot Icon Brickell condo sold for $740,000 in 2015.
- 655 Casuarina Concourse, Coral Gables, a vacant lot of 38,200 square feet bought for $2.3 million in 2015.
- 14432 Rolling Rock Place, Wellington, a 2.2-acre lot bought for $1 million in 2016.
- 14464 Rolling Rock Place, Wellington, a 6,178-square-foot house on a 2.2-acre ranch that sold for $2.08 million in 2015.
- 3530 Mystic Pointe Drive, Unit 1206, Aventura, a 1,361-square-foot condo in Mystic Pointe Tower that sold for $352,500 in January 2018.
Federal prosecutors also identified $45.6 million in cash seized from bank accounts, stock held in offshore bank accounts, and two condos at the Residential Santa Maria Signature in Panama as assets that could be seized in the money laundering case.