US Charges Venezuelan Chief Justice with Corruption and Money Laundering
By Geraldine Cook April 17, 2020
Maikel Moreno — the highest-ranking judge in Venezuela — was indicted on separate charges in Miami, Florida for money laundering and corruption on March 26, the same day that Nicolás Maduro and others in his regime were charged with narco-terrorism and other criminal charges.
Moreno is believed to have doled out legal favors in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes paid through Miami and foreign bank accounts that he spent on chartered private jets, expensive watches, and other luxury goods in South Florida, federal prosecutors say in their affidavit.
One example they cite was Moreno authorizing the Maduro regime’s seizure of a General Motors auto plant in Venezuela rather than keeping it open for thousands of workers.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said corrupt Venezuelan leaders like Moreno have for too long used South Florida to launder their money.
“Whether it is million-dollar condos, very fancy yachts or private jets — all of this has become a part of our society in southern Florida,” Fajardo said. “This party is coming to an end.”
Fajardo also announced that her office had already seized more than $450 million in bank accounts and assets in several cases involving more than a dozen Venezuelan defendants, including a former national treasurer.
According to the criminal complaint, in 2014, Moreno told U.S. authorities in a visa application that he earned the equivalent of about $12,000 per year from his work in Venezuela. Yet for a span of four years — from 2012 to 2016 — Moreno’s U.S. bank records show about $3 million in his accounts, primarily from large transfers from shell corporations with foreign bank accounts.
Fajardo said Moreno specialized in cases involving fraud and financial crimes so that he could take advantage of deep-pocketed business defendants willing to pay bribes for their freedom. She said the chief justice “received large bribes to authorize the dismissal of charges or the release from custody of multiple Venezuelans who literally stole billions of dollars from Venezuela’s state-owned oil proceeds.”
Another former general pondering surrender
Meanwhile Hugo Carvajal, the former chief of Venezuela’s military intelligence unit, is discussing his possible surrender with U.S. authorities. Carvajal was among those charged with Maduro and other top regime officials with narco-terrorism.
Carvajal, a former general and ally of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, has been in hiding since a Spanish court in November approved his extradition to the United States. It was unclear when or if he would surrender.
The Spanish police arrested the former spy chief in April 2019 at the request of U.S. authorities, but Spain’s High Court initially ruled that he should be released and his extradition request was denied. The court reversed that decision in November, prompting Carvajal to go into hiding. Since leaving Venezuela, Carvajal has denounced Maduro and given his support to Interim President Juan Guaidó.