Ex-chief of Venezuela's highest court charged with diverting millions in bribes to Miami

  • In US
  • 2023-01-27 00:20:13Z
  • By Miami Herald

The former chief of Venezuela's highest court was indicted Thursday in Miami federal court on charges of granting legal favors in exchange for bribery payments that he diverted through local bank accounts and spent on chartered private jets, expensive watches, luxury goods and real estate in South Florida.

Maikel Moreno, who was president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice from 2017 to 2022, is charged with laundering money and related offenses stemming from $10 million in bribes that prosecutors say he accepted from politically connected white-collar defendants who sought breaks in their high-stakes fraud and financial cases in Venezuela.

Moreno, who remains a supreme court justice and is living in Venezuela, was initially charged by a criminal complaint in Miami in March 2020 - the same day that President Nicolás Maduro and others were charged in New York with narco-terrorism.

Federal prosecutors portrayed Moreno in court papers as a crooked judge who deployed his power to enrich himself at the expense of justice. Moreno spent millions of dollars in alleged bribery payments on luxury properties in Venezuela, Miami, the Dominican Republic and Tuscany, Italy, according to court records.

A prior affidavit filed in Moreno's case said the judge spent $1 million on private jets and pilots in travel from Venezuela to Miami and other destinations, $600,000 in credit card purchases for Prada, Ferragamo and other designer goods at Bal Harbour Shops, $50,000 at a luxury watch repair shop in Aventura, and a $40,000 payment to a Venezuelan beauty pageant director.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Berger and agents with Homeland Security Investigations began focusing on Moreno's alleged misconduct after digging into kickback and money-laundering schemes between officials with Venezuela's national oil company, PDVSA, and contractors based in Miami and elsewhere. When Moreno once applied for a U.S. visa in 2016, he reported that he made $12,000 a year from his job in the Venezuela judicial system. But investigators with HSI's El Dorado Task Force South later discovered that he had received about $3 million in his Bank of America account in Miami between 2012 and 2016.

According to the HSI affidavit filed in 2020, an unidentified Venezuelan described as a former criminal defense attorney who owned a TV media company in Caracas made two wire transfers into Moreno's Miami account - the first for $500,000 from a Swiss bank and the second for $300,000 from an Austrian bank.

The Miami Herald learned that the person who wired the money was Raúl Gorrín, an influential businessman close to Maduro and to his predecessor, the late President Hugo Chávez. Gorrín is wanted in a separate 2018 money-laundering case in Miami on charges of bribing the former national treasurer, Alejandro Andrade, to embezzle hundreds of millions from Venezuela's government. Andrade pleaded guilty in federal court in South Florida, paid a financial penalty of more than $250 million and served three years based on his cooperation with U.S. authorities.

In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department froze Moreno's bank account and other assets in the United States after the supreme court in Venezuela stripped away authority from the nation's legislature. Two cooperating witnesses - an associate of Moreno's and an attorney in Venezuela - told federal investigators that the chief justice accepted bribes in dozens of instances from parties in both criminal and civil cases, according to the affidavit.

In one civil case between a General Motors plant and Venezuelan GM auto dealers in 2017, Moreno ruled in favor of closing the $100 million GM facility rather than keeping it open for thousands of workers, the affidavit said. In exchange, he was promised by the auto dealers' attorney a "significant percentage of the proceeds" from the eventual sale of the GM plant after its seizure.

A white-collar defendant had his criminal case dismissed by Moreno after he gave the judge a "luxurious residence" in the affluent neighborhood of Alto Hatillo in Caracas, according to the affidavit. The judge kept his watch collection in the house, including one timepiece worth $1 million, the affidavit said.

Although the defendant in the Venezuelan case was not identified, the Herald has learned he was Francisco Convit. He is the lead defendant in a $1 billion money-laundering case in Miami, accusing him and several others of making sham loans to the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and receiving astronomical sums from the government in return. Most of the money was moved to Europe, but some ended up in U.S. bank accounts and Miami real estate.

Both cooperating witnesses told federal investigators that Moreno received $1 million in a bribe payment from Miami to ensure the release of an oil contractor from custody who was charged in a PDVSA corruption case in Venezuela, according to the affidavit.


More Related News

Abortion-rights supporters prevail in New Hampshire House
Abortion-rights supporters prevail in New Hampshire House
  • US
  • 2023-03-23 20:40:04Z

In a victory for abortion-rights supporters, the Republican-led but closely divided New Hampshire House on Thursday rejected multiple bills to further...

Man accused of killing Georgia student during spring break alleges self-defense, report says
Man accused of killing Georgia student during spring break alleges self-defense, report says
  • US
  • 2023-03-23 17:26:26Z

Police said the man came up to the officers and told them "it was me," according to an incident report.

State supreme court upholds Middle Georgia man
State supreme court upholds Middle Georgia man's murder conviction, life sentence
  • US
  • 2023-03-23 15:19:42Z

Malik Taylor appealed a 2017 murder conviction, arguing the trial judge misled the jury. Here's why the Supreme Court of Georgia decided to uphold his...

The eleven savings accounts with the best interest rates for 2023
The eleven savings accounts with the best interest rates for 2023

Rising interest rates are good news for savers, who until recently earned next to nothing on the money sitting in their bank accounts.

Israel ratifies law limiting conditions for a Netanyahu ouster
Israel ratifies law limiting conditions for a Netanyahu ouster
  • US
  • 2023-03-23 05:22:19Z

Israel ratified a law on Thursday limiting the circumstances in which a prime minister can be removed, despite worries voiced by a government jurist that it ...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Allomycle
    (2023-03-16 00:33:09Z)

    Technique of sclerotherapy buy cialis online from india


Top News: US