Former Venezuelan Treasurer Sentenced to 10 yrs for Accepting Over $1B in Bribes

Alejandro Andrade Cedeno (Andrade), 54, a Venezuelan citizen residing in Wellington, Florida and a former Venezuelan national treasurer, was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in the West Palm Beach Division of the Southern District of Florida.

Andrade pleaded guilty under seal on Dec. 22, 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  As part of his guilty plea, Andrade admitted that he received over $1 billion in bribes from co-conspirator Raul Gorrin Belisario (Gorrin), 50, and other co-conspirators in exchange for using his position as Venezuelan national treasurer to select them to conduct currency exchange transactions at favorable rates for the Venezuelan government.  Andrade received cash as well as private jets, yachts, cars, homes (including his 9,000 sq. ft. Wellington estate), champion horses, and high-end watches from his co-conspirators.  As part of his plea agreement, Andrade agreed to a forfeiture money judgment of $1 billion and forfeiture of all assets involved in the corrupt scheme, including real estate, vehicles, horses, watches, aircraft and bank accounts. 

Gorrin, the owner of the Venezuelan television network Globovision, has been charged with money-laundering and violating the foreign corrupt practices act.

The two cases — along with the recent arrests of other top Venezuelan officials — illustrate the corruption under the late President Hugo Chavez that now finds Venezuelan people fleeing across the border to Colombia in search of food and medical supplies.  Prosecutors described the $2.4 billion money-laundering scheme as helping to push the South American nation into financial freefall.

Gorrin paid millions in bribes to Andrade and another top Venezuelan official to secure the rights to conduct foreign currency exchange transactions for the Venezuelan government at favorable rates, prosecutors claim. The other official is believed to be Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, who succeeded Andrade as national treasurer. She is in jail in Spain, fighting extradition to Venezuela.

Speaking in his native Spanish, Andrade told Judge Rosenberg through a translator that he made “some very poor choices” during the four years he served as national treasurer of Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez.  But, Andrade insisted, contrary to reports by Spanish-language television reporters who crowded into the courtroom, he is not a money-hungry monster with no remorse: “I’ve continued to assist the people of Venezuela in any way I’ve been able to,” he said.

Prosecutors acknowledged Andrade’s assistance led them to others involved in the global money-laundering operation. In the future, prosecutors may ask Rosenberg to reduce Andrade’s sentence to reward him for his cooperation.