Ex-Miami DEA Agent Allegedly Part of Huge Colombian Drug-Money-Laundering Ring

By Jerry Iannelli

Last September, the federal government charged Gustavo Yabrudi, a dual Venezuelan-American citizen, in Tampa federal court with conspiracy to commit money-laundering. Yabrudi has since pleaded guilty. But court documents in those cases list four “co-conspirators” who worked alongside Yabrudi throughout South Florida and Latin America: Three of those four lived in Miami-Dade County, according to court records. “Co-conspirator 3” was listed as “a resident of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Colombia who worked as a Special Agent for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).”

The Associated Press yesterday reported that Irizarry was that third conspirator, and that Yabrudi had been working as Iziarry’s DEA informant. (Witnesses said in court transcripts that Yabrudi helped arrange money “pick-ups” between drug-dealers and undercover DEA agents.) Unnamed sourced within the federal government told the AP that Irizarry is now the subject of a criminal probe, and that his alleged corruption scheme is one of the biggest black eyes in DEA history. Given Colombia’s status as a haven for drug traffickers, the agency considers its Colombian offices some of the most important in its (failed) global War on Drugs. Irizarry was reportedly a “star” agent in Miami who racked up tons of high-profile arrests before he was promoted and moved to Cartagena. He declared bankruptcy in 2010 but, by the time he moved to Colombia, was somehow throwing yacht parties. His second wife was also reportedly related to the Colombian mafia.

New Times was not able to independently confirm the AP’s reporting. But court documents reviewed by the newspaper allege the group of five people would skim cash from Colombian drug sales in the United States, ship it back to Colombia, and then convert it into Colombian pesos using extremely favorable, black-market Colombian money-exchange programs. The feds said the group moved $7 million this way: In some cases, the group allegedly used a Miami-based cell-phone company to buy goods using dirty money and then export the phones down to Colombia to be sold for pesos. Prosecutors also stated in recent court filings that Yabrudi worked with Irizarry to open bank accounts across Florida — the two men then deposited money from drug sales into the hidden accounts.

Court records allege that Irizarry also helped the group steal funds from the DEA.

“It was also part of the conspiracy that conspirators would and did obtain illegal drug proceeds held in DEA undercover accounts,” which the group then laundered back into Colombia, a September 2018 government-forfeiture document reads. Prosecutors later added that Irizarry “provided conspirators, including Yabrudi and Co-Conspirator 4, access to funds contained in DEA undercover accounts.” The other conspirators then allegedly paid “kickbacks” to Irizarry.

Of course, Irizarry began to trip up. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the feds caught onto his scheme when the agent started brazenly stealing from the DEA and screwing up legitimate agency business. In one case, an $87,000 wire-transfer to a Cali Cartel drug-trafficker went missing. But that trafficker was apparently an informant for the Miami-Dade County Money-Laundering Strike-Force — county cops then complained to the Justice Department, which reportedly led to Yabrudi’s arrest.

Danske Bank, ex-CEO are sued in U.S. over money laundering scandal

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Danske Bank A/S and four former top executives were sued on Wednesday by a U.S. shareholder that accused Denmark’s largest bank of defrauding investors and inflating its share price by hiding and failing to stop widespread money laundering at its Estonian branch.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by a New York pension fund that is seeking class-action status and damages for investors in Danske’s American depositary shares from Jan. 9, 2014 to Oct. 23, 2018.

Danske was accused of being “intentionally less than forthcoming” to Danish regulators even after a whistleblower alerted the Copenhagen-based bank to suspected money laundering, while overstating its legitimate profitability and ability to thwart misconduct.

The bank did not immediately respond to requests for comment after market hours in Europe on behalf of the defendants, who include former Chief Executive Thomas Borgen, former Chairman Ole Andersen, and two former chief financial officers.

Borgen resigned last Sept. 19, when Danske said an internal probe had uncovered about 200 billion euros (US$231 billion) of payments made from 2007 to 2015 through its small Estonian branch, and that many payments appeared suspicious.

Andersen was replaced in December.

Authorities in Denmark, Estonia, Great Britain and the United States are investigating the payments, including in a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. Danske has said it has been cooperating with authorities.

The Sept. 19 report came one year after Danske expanded its probe into the Estonian branch, following what it called “a root cause analysis concluding that several major deficiencies led to the branch not being sufficiently effective in preventing it from potentially being used for money laundering.”

According to the complaint, the market value of Danske’s ADRs fell by more than $2.54 billion as investors learned of the full scope of the scandal.

It is common for shareholders to sue companies in the United States after what they consider unexpected share price declines.

The lawsuit is led by the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 773 Pension Fund of Glens Falls, New York. Its law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd specializes in securities fraud.

The case is Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 773 Pension Fund vs Danske Bank A/S et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00235.

DEA agent linked to Colombian money laundering scheme, prosecutors say

By Scott Glover

(CNN)An agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration is under investigation in connection with a scheme to launder millions of dollars for Colombian drug traffickers, CNN has learned.

The years-long conspiracy sometimes “involved the use of undercover accounts controlled by the DEA,” according to court papers filed in US District Court in Tampa, Florida.
The agent is not identified by name but is characterized as a “co-conspirator” in the case against a long-time DEA informant who has pleaded guilty to money laundering for the Colombians.
The agent, according to court papers, received cash payments from an account containing hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money. The agent also directed additional money to be deposited into the accounts of his family members, the documents state.
A DEA spokeswoman in Washington declined comment.
Though the case was filed in Tampa, the prosecution is being overseen by the US Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, Georgia. The transfer of the matter to another jurisdiction is the sort of step federal authorities sometimes take in investigations involving allegations of official corruption.
Kurt Erskine, a top official in the US attorney’s office in Atlanta, declined comment on the case.
The information about the allegedly rogue agent is contained in a plea agreement between federal prosecutors and former DEA informant Gustavo Yabrudi, a Venezuelan-born Miami resident.
Yabrudi’s defense attorney, Leonardo E. Concepcion, said in an email that the case is “still active” and, “I cannot discuss it as this time.”
Yabrudi worked on and off as an informant for the DEA from 2010 to 2016 with stints in New York, Boston and Miami, according to court records. He was deactivated at one point in 2013 for “unauthorized money movements.”
According to court records, the agent identified as a co-conspirator instructed Yabrudi in 2015 to recruit someone to open a bank account under a false name in Miami. Hundreds of thousands of dollars “from illegal drug sales” was deposited into the account, the records state.
Neither the agent nor Yabrudi informed the DEA of the existence of the account, according to the court records.
The pair subsequently spread the money around among fellow conspirators who laundered the proceeds in various ways and got the money into the hands of traffickers in Colombia, the documents allege.
At least $7 million in “illegal funds” passed through a business account belonging to one co-conspirator, according to Yabrudi’s plea agreement.Yabrubi was charged with money laundering in September. He agreed to plead guilty later that same month.
In December, federal prosecutors and Yabrudi’s defense attorney filed a joint motion requesting that his sentencing be postponed for six months. He is currently set to be sentenced in May.
“The defendant is cooperating against others who facilitated sophisticated money laundering schemes, in part, by using undercover accounts that were shell companies and controlled by law enforcement,” the motion states. “Some of the illegal proceeds laundered during these schemes derived from drug trafficking and public corruption related offenses.” The agent’s current status with DEA is unclear.

Europe Ends Scandal-Plagued 2018 With Plan to Target Money Laundering

The European Council agreed recently to give greater supervisory powers to the European Banking Authority, ending a year defined by lender scandals with a plan to prevent money laundering.

One problem, however, is that the action doesn’t sufficiently address existing deficiencies spread across the bloc’s financial-services sector, according to lawyers and bankers.

The European Council first rolled out its proposals in September. Its leaders will have to reach an agreement with the European Parliament before the rules can be adopted and applied.

The European Union also earlier this year approved its fifth anti-money-laundering directive, requiring member states to implement new rules by 2020. But the rules are enforced by each individual state, leading to what many observers call a patchwork that leaves parts of the bloc open to abuse.

The U.S. has led the way on anti-money-laundering enforcement in recent years, but in the past year Europe has worked to catch up, while multiple lenders there faced scandal during the year.

Dutch prosecutors in September imposed a record fine on ING GroepNV, while Malta’s Pilatus Bank Ltd. this year lost its license to operate following allegations in the U.S. of money laundering and sanctions violations against its chairman. Meanwhile, Latvia’s ABLV Bank AS liquidated itself following U.S. allegations of money laundering, bribery and sanctions violations.

And a multilateral investigation into the Tallinn, Estonia, branch of Denmark’s Danske Bank A/S is continuing, with Estonian authorities in December making their first arrests as they probe a potential quarter-trillion-euro money-laundering scandal.

Simon Airey, a partner at the law firm Paul Hastings LLP, said there is a large disparity in anti-money-laundering controls between the best and worst banks and countries in Europe. That disparity has provided a feeding ground for organized criminals, kleptocrats and the professionals who enable them, he said.

The European Council “clearly thinks that the only way to achieve a more level playing field is through more centralized supervisory and enforcement powers,” he said.

Andris Ivanovs, a London-based associate at law firm Ropes & Gray LLP specializing in litigation and enforcement practices, said the agreement struck this month doesn’t address the fundamental vulnerabilities of money laundering that exist as a result of some member states failing to enforce the rules.

“The uncomfortable truth is that some member states will continue to be gateways into the EU financial system for proceeds of crime,” he said.

Israel becomes member of global body against money laundering, terror financing

By Sue Surkes

Israel on Monday became a full member of the Financial Action Task Force, an international body set up to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other threats to the international financial system.

The Jewish state has now taken its place alongside 37 other members — including most of the G20, the world’s 20 leading industrialized and emerging economies — just 16 years after being blacklisted by the organization.

According to the Justice Ministry, a FATF compliance report on Israel — also issued Monday and based on a detailed compliance audit carried out in Israel earlier this year — ranked the country as one of three leading states, alongside the US and the UK, for the effectiveness of its anti-money laundering apparatus, its battle against terror financing, the work of its Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, and its policy of seizing the financial proceeds of crime.

“Joining the organization is a national achievement on a political level, contributing to Israel’s ability to fight terrorist financing internationally, and strengthening the Israeli economy,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a press conference.

Membership also tags Israel as an attractive country for international investment and improve the status of the Israeli financial sector and its ability to operate in the global economy, Shaked added.

Shlomit Wagman-Ratner, head of the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Authority, said, “The report reflects the decisive leap that Israel has taken over the past two decades in its perception of the need to protect the integrity and security of Israel’s financial system.”

FATF President Marshall Billingslea said, “In a comprehensive review of its anti-money laundering and terror financing regime, Israel successfully achieved good results in identifying and addressing the risks facing it.

“The review process is not the end point, but is Israel’s starting point for further strengthening the regime, and we are confident that in light of Israel’s commitment to protecting the integrity of its financial system, the county will act quickly to implement the recommended actions in the audit report.

“Membership in FATF opens a new chapter for Israel and will enrich FATF as an organization.”

Panama Papers: US files first criminal charges over money laundering scheme

By Will Fitzgibbon

United States authorities have charged four men, including two former Mossack Fonseca employees, with money laundering and fraud, the Department of Justice announced today.

The charges are the first in the U.S. following the Panama Papers investigation, which was first published in 2016 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 global media partners.

Ramses Owens and Dirk Brauer, two former senior employees of the Panama-headquartered law firm, were charged with a string of offenses “in connection with their alleged roles in a decades-long criminal scheme,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Authorities also charged Boston-based accountant Richard Gaffey, and former U.S. taxpayer Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz with tax evasion, wire fraud and money laundering.

A statement from the DOJ alleges that the four men “defrauded the U.S. government through a large scale, intercontinental money laundering and wire fraud scheme.”

“These defendants went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent U.S. tax laws in order to maintain their wealth and the wealth of their clients,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

“For decades, the defendants, employees and a client of global law firm Mossack Fonseca, allegedly shuffled millions of dollars through offshore accounts and created shell companies to hide fortunes.”

U.S. authorities partnered with enforcement agencies around the world to arrest Brauer in Paris, France, and Von Der Goltz in London, United Kingdom. Gaffey was arrested in Boston on Tuesday. Panamanian citizen Owens remains at large.

“These efforts reflect the commitment of U.S. law enforcement to follow that trail and apprehend these criminals regardless of where they are in the world.”

The men are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

According to the DOJ, Mossack Fonseca employees deliberately created bank accounts in tax havens to hinder enforcement investigations and advised U.S. taxpayers to secretly repatriate money. The names of the real owners of shell companies “generally did not appear” on offshore company paperwork.

The Panama Papers investigation was based on a trove of 11.5 million files from inside Mossack Fonseca that were leaked to reporters Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier at German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with ICIJ. The investigation, done in collaboration with more than 370 reportersworking for 100 media outlets, exposed the offshore holdings of world political leaders, links to global scandals, and details of the hidden financial dealings of fraudsters, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities, sports stars and more.

German-born Von Der Goltz, who lived in the U.S. from 1984, allegedly evaded taxes through shell companies and offshore bank accounts.

The DOJ alleged that Von Der Goltz falsely claimed his mother, who lived in Guatemala and is now 102, owned companies and bank accounts. Von Der Goltz denied wrongdoing, according to a 2016 report from ICIJ media partner The New York Times.

Gaffey allegedly helped Von Der Goltz and another unnamed U.S. taxpayer evade taxes, the DOJ alleged.

“The charges announced today demonstrate our commitment to prosecute professionals who facilitate financial crime across international borders and the tax cheats who utilize their services,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski.

4 men charged with fraud, money laundering in connection to Panama Papers investigation

By Doha Madani

The Department of Justice filed charges including fraud and money laundering against four individuals, one a U.S. citizen, in connection with their alleged roles in a decades long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co, a Panamanian global law firm.

The case is part of an investigation stemming from the Panama Papers, a massive leak of financial details about secret offshore accounts in 2016.

Richard Gaffey, a U.S. citizen; Ramses Owens, 50, of Panama; and Dirk Brauer, 54, and Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, 81, both German citizens, were charged in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday, according to a Department of Justice press release.

“They had a playbook to repatriate untaxed money into the U.S. banking system. Now, their international tax scheme is over, and these defendants face years in prison for their crimes,” Berman said.

Prosecutors say Owens and Brauer, while working with Mossack Fonseca clients, marketed, created, and serviced sham foundations and shell companies in foreign countries to conceal U.S. taxpayers’ actual incomes from the IRS, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Von Der Goltz was allegedly one of those clients and was assisted by Gaffey, an accountant, the statement said.

Three of the four defendants named in the indictment have been arrested while Owens, a Panamanian attorney, remains at large.

Owens, Gaffey and Von Der Goltz were charged with one count each of wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit tax evasion. Owens and Brauer were also charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

In addition, Gaffey and Von Der Goltz were charged with four counts of willful failure to file an FBAR, a disclosure report for U.S. taxpayers who have foreign financial accounts or interests worth more than $10,000. Von Der Goltz is also facing two counts of making false statements.

Failed B.C. money-laundering case shows ‘snow-washing’ is thriving in Canada

By Barrie McKenna

When RCMP raided the offices of Silver International Investments Inc. in Richmond, B.C., they found a $2-million stash of $20 bills, along with records pointing to a much bigger operation. Law-enforcement officials would eventually conclude that the company was part of an alleged scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dirty money from China through various casinos in the province, including the nearby River Rock Casino.

Three years later – just as the case was set to go to trial – the Mounties and federal prosecutors abruptly stayed criminal charges against the company and its two principal operators, Caixuan Qin and Jain Jun Zhu. Officials acknowledged there was no “reasonable prospect” of getting a conviction.

Just like that, one of the largest money-laundering investigations in Canadian history, dubbed E-Pirate, hit a brick wall.

The case’s collapse suggests something went “terribly wrong,” B.C. Attorney-General David Eby lamented this week. “To have it fail is … very devastating for all of us who are trying to get dirty money out of our economy.”

Canada already enjoys an international reputation as a nice, peaceful country where it’s far too easy to hide and launder ill-gotten wealth. And this case’s demise is likely to enhance our allure in the murky world of dirty money.

“Canada has been famously named as the place where people come to ‘snow-wash’ their dirty money,” said Kevin Comeau, a Toronto lawyer and anti-money-laundering expert.

That’s unfortunate because authorities are only belatedly taking the problem seriously in Canada. Earlier this month, the House of Commons finance committee issued a long-awaited report, highlighted by a key recommendation to deal with the problem of beneficial ownership.

Unlike a legal owner, who typically holds the title to an asset, a beneficial owner may exercise influence through voting rights or other unseen forms of control. While the name of a legal owner is public, the beneficial owner’s name is often not.

Knowing who owns a property or a company is the missing link between the crime of laundering money and the illegal activities where that cash is generated, ranging from tax evasion to terrorism and drug smuggling. The ability of people to hide behind proxies and numbered companies – as they can now do in Canada – is the main obstacle to rooting out money laundering.

And so it was welcome news that the committee’s main recommendation is to “create a pan-Canadian beneficial ownership registry for all legal persons and entities” who have “significant control” over assets, such as real estate, stocks or companies.

The problem, experts say, is that other countries are moving much faster to create the legislative and regulatory structures to track, expose and prosecute money launderers. Putting the recommendations into law could take a year or more, given next year’s looming federal election.

“We are updating our laws, but not bringing them up to the standard of what other nations are doing,” Mr. Comeau explains. “We are very much the laggards now.”

And dirty money inevitably exploits weak links in the global financial system, especially in rich developed countries such as Canada where corruption is rare.

Unfortunately missing from the committee report is a nod to creating a new charge, punishable with prison time, for those who falsely claim to own laundered assets. Such false claims, Mr. Comeau says, is often the “rabbit hole” that thwarts law enforcement from linking cleansed assets to criminals.

Also lacking is a requirement that the new beneficial-ownership registry be publicly accessible, depriving officials of help from individual citizens and whistle-blowers.

Now maybe you think money laundering doesn’t affect you – that it’s an invisible and victimless crime. Well, consider the volume of illegal money that is likely flowing into Canada to be washed, and where it all ends up. Low-ball estimates put the figure at $40-billion to $100-billion a year.

Some might argue that foreign direct investment, dirty or not, is better than none at all. It drives real estate and construction activity, generates millions of dollars in revenues for government-run casinos, and no doubt creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But at what cost? Assume that much of this illicit money goes into real estate. It may explain why so many middle-class Canadians may never be able to afford a home in some of Canada’s largest cities, driving deep wedges between haves and have-nots.

That is a very steep price for the sale of a country.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-failed-bc-money-laundering-case-shows-snow-washing-is-thriving-in/

Police raid Deutsche Bank headquarters as part of Panama Papers money laundering investigation

By David Rising & Frank Jordans

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters Thursday amid suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros.

About 170 police officers, investigators and prosecutors swooped in on the bank’s offices in Frankfurt and premises in nearby Eschborn and Gross-Umstadt at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT), seizing electronic and paper records.

The investigation emerged from an analysis of documents leaked from tax havens in recent years, including the 2016 “Panama Papers,” said Frankfurt prosecutors’ spokeswoman Nadja Niesen.

It is focused on two Deutsche Bank employees, aged 50 and 46, and possibly other still unidentified suspects, she said. At least one site raided was a suspect’s home.

Analysis of the Panama Papers and other documents “gave rise to suspicion that Deutsche Bank was helping clients set up so-called offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there from Deutsche Bank accounts” without the bank reporting it, Niesen said.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers are alleged to have transferred some 311 million euros ($351 million) to one such company set up in the British Virgin Islands, she said.

The suspects, both German citizens, are accused of failing to report the suspicious transactions even though there was “sufficient evidence” to have been aware of it.

Deutsche Bank confirmed the search and said “the investigation has to do with the Panama Papers case.”

“More details will be communicated as soon as these become known. We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” the bank said.

Money laundering has become a growing problem in Europe, where a series of scandals has exposed lax regulation.

And it’s not the first time Deutsche Bank has run into trouble over the flow of dirty money.

It was fined more than $600 million by U.S. and U.K. authorities in January 2017 for allowing customers to transfer $10 billion out of Russia in what regulators said was “highly suggestive of financial crime.”\

The Panama Papers are a trove of documents from a law firm that handled shell companies for thousands of rich and powerful clients around the world. While owning a shell company is not illegal, it is used to hide the beneficial owner of a company or transfer, making it important for the handling and laundering of dirty money.

Several other institutions besides Deutsche Bank have been fined by authorities in the U.S. and Europe for not properly checking up on the beneficial owners of shell companies that send money through their accounts.

Analysts say that because these transactions can be lucrative and punishments are lax, banks have few incentives to do more than the minimum required by law to check on the identity of a bank.

“Even in the most egregious cases, banks are often only required to pay a monetary penalty for engaging in criminal activity, which is merely the cost of doing business,” said Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department.

“The failure to hold banks accountable for money laundering encourages such criminal activity, including laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in Panama and other money laundering havens,” said Gurule, now a professor at Notre Dame Law School.

Most recently, Denmark’s biggest bank, Danske Bank, admitted that some 200 billion euros ($235 billion) in suspicious money had flown through its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015. Whistleblower and former employee Howard Wilkinson has indicated that Danske Bank’s management was aware of what was going on at the branch, which was among the bank’s most profitable units. He has also alleged that family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s spy agency were using the bank for money laundering. The bank’s CEO has since stepped down over the scandal.

Another Baltic state, Latvia, has also emerged as a major hub of money laundering, with a 2014 leak showing that tens of billions of dollars were funneled from Russia in 2010-14. Some of the money reportedly went through Deutsche Bank and ended up in major capitals like London, according to The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

There was no indication that Thursday’s raid was linked to that scandal, though Deutsche Bank says that it has since stopped providing dollar transactions in some countries, including Latvia.

Venezuela’s ex-treasurer sentenced to 10 years for South Florida money-laundering scheme

By Jay Weaver

A former national treasurer in the socialist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday by a U.S. judge for his central role in a $1 billion bribery and money-laundering scheme that enabled him to acquire luxury real estate and other assets in South Florida.

Alejandro Andrade, 54, sold access to the Venezuelan government’s lucrative foreign-currency exchanges both before and after Chávez’s death in 2013, enriching himself and an elite circle of other senior officials and a prominent businessman, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg imposed the maximum sentence for Andrade’s money-laundering conspiracy conviction in West Palm Beach federal court, rejecting a proposal by his defense attorneys to give him seven years in prison for accepting responsibility for his crime in a plea deal. The judge did not impose a fine because Andrade has no money to pay one. He was allowed to surrender to prison on Feb. 25 instead of immediately because he has been assisting federal authorities in the massive corruption and money-laundering investigation.

Andrade apologized to the judge, his family and the Venezuelan people for his crime, and then described how he became involved in a “movement” led by Chávez that he believed would benefit his country. Soon, however, the national treasurer acknowledged that he betrayed the public’s trust.

“I made some very bad choices when I was treasurer, and for that I am very sorry from the bottom of my heart,” said Andrade, who served as the top financial official in Venezuela’s government from 2007 to 2010 before moving with his family to South Florida in 2014. “To this day, I am convinced the decision I made [to cooperate] is the right one.”

Before his sentencing, Andrade owned several properties in the wealthy equestrian community of Wellington in the western part of Palm Beach County. In a $1 billion forfeiture judgment, the U.S. attorney’s office and Homeland Security Investigations have begun the process of taking those tainted properties, along with his vast collection of high-priced cars, show-jumping horses and watches.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, federal prosecutor Vanessa Snyder said Andrade conspired with three other key players in the money-laundering ring by giving them access to the Venezuelan government’s favorable dollar-to-bolivar currency exchange. Snyder said the scheme generated about $2.4 billion in illicit profits for Andrade’s three co-conspirators and they agreed to share half of their money with Andrade while keeping it in European and U.S. banks.

“Mr. Andrade abused the trust of the people of Venezuela,” Snyder said, describing how his crime contributed to the longstanding economic crisis in the South American country. “The amount of money he agreed to receive was staggering.”

But Andrade’s defense attorneys, Curtis Miner and Bob Martinez, said the co-conspirators controlled the bank accounts and that their client received about $70 million in bribes — not $1 billion.

Andrade, who pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge last December, has provided insider information to Snyder and fellow prosecutor Michael Nadler to assist them in building a sprawling criminal case against some of Venezuela’s richest people. Among them: TV network tycoon Raúl Gorrín, 50, who was indicted last Monday, one day before the case against Andrade was unsealed in federal court in West Palm Beach.

The indictment charges Gorrín, a politically connected Caracas businessman, with conspiring to bribe Venezuelan officials and commit money laundering by hiding embezzled government funds in South Florida and New York real estate over the past decade.

The international money-laundering scheme allegedly led by Gorrín transpired over a period of extreme economic hardship for everyday Venezuelans. Oil rich and once wealthy, Venezuela is staggering under an economic collapse that has led to hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. More than three million people have fled the country in recent years, according to the United Nations.

The national political coordinator for Venezuela’s opposition Voluntad Popular party, Carlos Vecchio, said Andrade’s web of corruption is tied directly to current President Nicolás Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores.

“All of them are responsible for the deep crisis that Venezuela is living through,” Vecchio said in a statement, adding that the one billion dollars that Andrade amassed “is money that was stolen from the Venezuelan people.”

The South Florida probe of Andrade was first reported by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald in March. Andrade, a former Chávez bodyguard who rose to become national treasurer, faced up to 10 years in prison under his plea agreement — substantially less prison time than Gorrín now faces as a fugitive wanted by federal authorities in Miami.

Andrade was staying at his equestrian farm in Wellington while assisting the feds in the case against Gorrín and others. In mid-November, federal agents seized his Wellington properties, including 17 prized show horses.

The warmblood 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.

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, Gorrín and other associates in Venezuela’s government, banking and business sectors are accused of enriching themselves by capitalizing on favorable foreign currency exchanges and concealing their staggering profits in European and U.S. bank accounts and investments, according to Gorrín’s indictment. Andrade used his official position to give Gorrín access to the government’s preferred exchange rates to maximize profits on currency transactions. The funds to fuel the scheme were generated by the national treasury’s issuance of bonds.

Gorrín is accused of paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to Andrade and another former high-ranking official in the national treasury office by funneling the money to them through a Venezuelan banker in the Dominican Republic. The banker, Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, 50, controlled the Dominican bank with Gorrín.

Jimenez was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering earlier this year, pleaded guilty in March and awaits sentencing on Thursday as he cooperates with federal authorities. He faces up to 10 years in prison. His defense attorney, Marissel Descalzo, declined to comment.

In addition to wiring millions through Swiss and U.S. banks to those two former high-ranking Venezuelan treasury officials, Gorrín paid for an array of lavish expenses for Andrade, including three jets, a yacht, champion show horses and high-end watches, according to Gorrín’s indictment and other court records. He even paid some of Andrade’s veterinarian bills.

Gorrín’s indictment and the cases against Andrade and Jimenez are unrelated to a $1.2 billion South Florida money-laundering case filed in July that charged nine defendants, including some close to President Maduro, with embezzling vast sums of money from Venezuela’s national oil company and washing it through foreign currency exchanges to inflate profits. Millions in ill-gotten funds were invested in South Florida’s real estate market, including luxury high-rise condos and waterfront mansions in the Cocoplum section of Coral Gables.

Two defendants in that case — Gorrín’s personal banker Matthias Krull and former Venezuelan national oil-company executive Abraham Ortega — have pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracy charges and are cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security investigations.

Gorrín, owner of the Globovisión network in Caracas, has not been charged in that case. He is suspected of steering $600 million from the country’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to a European bank to enrich himself, Maduro’s three stepsons and other members of Venezuela’s political elite, according to court records and multiple sources familiar with the federal probe in Miami.

Maduro’s stepsons and the president himself are also under investigation in that case.