By Keith Larsen
Federal authorities charged a Venezuelan TV magnate for his role in a billion-dollar money laundering and currency exchange scheme involving real estate around the world, including two dozen properties in Miami and New York.
The indictment follows a separate billion-dollar money laundering scheme in July that included real estate in South Florida. In that case, federal prosecutors say top Venezuelan officials siphoned funds out of the state oil company, and into assets throughout the world.
In both cases, some of the money is alleged to have been poured into two units at Dezer Development’s luxury Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach.
In the most recent case, authorities are now seeking to seize 24 properties allegedly tied to billionaire Raúl Gorrín. Those residences also include luxury homes in Miami’s Cocoplum neighborhood and six in Manhattan.
One of the New York homes is a four-bedroom, five-and-half bathroom penthouse at 60 Riverside Boulevard; another is a unit in the Baccarat Hotel and Residences at 20 West 53rd Street, which last sold for $18.8 million.
The government alleges Gorrín, president of the news channel Globovision, bribed top Venezuelan officials to gain access to the country’s special fixed-currency exchange rate. Gorrin allegedly tapped into this special rate by bribing the officials with at least $161 million in contracts with Venezuela’s treasury department.
He also allegedly paid his co-conspirators with three jets, a yacht, multiple champion horses, and numerous high-end watches, according to the indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. He was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and money laundering.
The indictment was filed in August 2017, but only unsealed Monday. As part of it, prosecutors unsealed cases against Alejandro Andrade, a former Venezuelan national treasurer who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to his role in the scheme; along with Gabriel Arturo Jimenez, a Venezuelan living in Chicago, and former owner of Banco Peravia bank. He pleaded guilty in March.
The condo in the Porsche Design Tower, unit 4406, was purchased in 2016 under pre-construction through a Delaware LLC called POSH 8 DYNAMIC for $12.8 million, according to Miami-Dade property records. The 6,121-square-foot condo has four bedrooms and four-and-half bathrooms and is a two-story penthouse, according to Realtor.com.
It is on the market for $9 million, or $950 per square foot, accordant to Zillow, and is being listed by Jill Eber of Coldwell Banker. The condo was previously listed for $13.9 million or $1,467 per square foot, in January. Eber did not immediately respond to a request to comment through a spokesperson.
In July, federal prosecutors sought to seize a different condo in the Porsche Design Tower, alleging a money laundering scheme that involved Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. That larger alleged scheme also included assets spread throughout the world. In that case, prosecutors allege Porsche Design Tower unit 2205 was one of the assets bought by the former general counsel to Venezuela’s oil ministry for $5.3 million, and used as a fee to pay an alleged money launderer.
About that case, Dezer Development’s Gil Dezer has said he never met the buyer of unit 2205 and has cited the Fair Housing Act as a requirement to sell when a buyer signs a contract and sends over a deposit. Housing authority and anti-money laundering experts have disputed this interpretation of the Fair Housing Act.
In November, Matthias Krull, a wealth manager with the Swiss bank Julius Baer Group, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in that scheme, after pleading guilty in August.
Gorrín was not a defendant in that case, but the Miami Herald — which first reported on the most recent indictment — reported that he is suspected of moving $600 million from PDVSA, to a European bank for his own benefit as well as other members of Venezuela’s elite class.
Gorrín’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, did not immediately return a request for comment. Dezer Development also did not immediately return a request for comment.