The daughter of late Venezuela nPresident Hugo Chávez allegedly used a secret bank account in the United States for two years to make million-dollar purchases, adding to a long list of money-laundering accusations against the Chávez family.
According to a report by Diario Las Américas, María Gabriela Chávez had access for two years to a bank account at the Mercantil Commercebank in Miami, opened in the name of her partner, Roberto Leyba. It was finally closed in 2016 on suspicion of containing funds from money laundering.
According to documents seen by the newspaper, the account received several deposits worth millions of dollars and made large transfers to third-parties.
Between the end of 2015 and mid-2016, the account was involved in several suspicious transactions. These included purchases made by María Gabriela Chávez at luxurious shops and restaurants in New York when she was a diplomatic representative for Venezuela at the United Nations, according to Diario Las Américas.
The newspaper explained that the account also received at least ten transfers from an account at the Bank of Cyprus in the name of Atlantides Shipping CO Ltd. These deposits were listed as “commissions” for the purchase of a boat, MV Speed Runner.
According to Diario Las Américas, documents from Florida regulatory bodies state that María Gabriela Chávez’s partner, Leyba, who has close ties to government agencies in Venezuela and with Citgo, a US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, said the account was opened to cover personal expenses. The lawyer registered an annual income of around $800,000, distributed between a $300,000 salary and $500,000 from unspecified sources.
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It is difficult to accurately calculate the wealth of María Gabriela Chávez, given the accusations of corruption and money laundering that swirl around her. In 2015, media reports estimated she was the richest person in Venezuela, with around $4.2 billion in assets held in bank accounts in the United States and Andorra.
In 2018, María Gabriela Chávez was accused by Venezuela’s former attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, of having benefited from a corruption network run by Alejandro Andrade, the country’s former national treasurer. Andrade was jailed in 2018 in the United States after pleading guilty to receiving more than $1 billion in bribes while holding public office.
SEE ALSO: Venezuela: A Mafia State?
In an interview, Ortega Díaz said that María GabrielaChávez had been facing two money-laundering investigations at the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office. One of those investigations also targeted her partner, Leyba.
In July 2014, María Gabriela Chávez was allegedly associated to a corruption scandal related to Venezuelan imports of rice and corn from Argentina.
At the end of September 2019, María Gabriela Chávez posted on Instagram that she was in Caracas but it is uncertain where she currently resides.
The United States has not so far included María Gabriela Chávez in its sanctions of Venezuelan officials believed to be involved in money laundering and drug trafficking. Officials on this list are forbidden from entering the United States, their assets and accounts in the country have been frozen and US companies are forbidden from having any commercial dealings with them.
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