Homeland Security seizes $250 million from convicted ex-Venezuelan treasurer

Jay Weaver, December 13, 2019

Federal agents have seized $250 million from convicted ex-Venezuelan national treasurer Alejandro Andrade, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his central role in a $1 billion money-laundering scheme that allowed him to hide a fortune in overseas banks as well as luxury real estate in South Florida.

Officials with Homeland Security Investigations in Miami on Thursday disclosed the seizure, which was carried out in recent weeks as part of a $1 billion forfeiture against the former top official in the socialist government of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The funds will be kept by the U.S. government.

Over the past year, HSI agents had seized about $50 million from Andrade, including overseas bank accounts, an equestrian farm in the exclusive Wellington area of Palm Beach County, 14 prized show-jumping horses, and a fleet of luxury cars, such as a 2015 Bentley Continental Convertible. The horses, with names like Bonjovi, Hardrock Z and Tinker Bell, were imported from various parts of Europe, court records show.

In an interview Thursday, HSI’s special agent in charge, Anthony Salisbury, called Andrade’s theft a “significant fleecing of a foreign nation” — indicative of billions of dollars that have been stolen from the Venezuelan government by politically connected kleptocrats and former senior officials in Venezuela’s treasury and state-run oil company known as PDVSA.

HSI agents have assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing money-laundering conspiracy cases against Andrade and 11 other defendants accused of embezzling billions from the Venezuelan government through bribery and currency-exchange rackets. Kevin Tyrrell, assistant special agent in charge of HSI’s Miami office, said “we do anticipate additional charges.”

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