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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday indicted the former governor of the Venezuelan state of Táchira and current deputy in the Venezuelan Parliament, José Gregorio Vielma Mora, on corruption and money laundering scheme related to a kickback program that took place between 2015 and 2020.
The indictment, which was handed down by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida and involves three Colombian and two Venezuelan citizens for their alleged roles in laundering profits from contracts to provide food and medicine to Venezuela that were obtained through kickbacks.
The corruption scheme with the social food program promoted by the Venezuelan dictatorship, known as the Local Supply and Production Committee (CLAP), is related to the businessman and front man of Nicolás Maduro, the Colombian Alex Saab, who was extradited in recent days to the United States from Cape Verde.
Alongside Vielma Mora, 55, are also Colombians Álvaro Pulido Vargas, known as Germán Enrique Rubio Salas, 57; Emmanuel Enrique Rubio González, 32; Carlos Rolando Lizcano Manrique, 50; and Venezuelan Ana Guillermo Luis, 49.
The indictment alleges that from July 2015 through 2020, Pulido, Vielma Mora, Rubio, Lizcano and Guillermo conspired with others to launder the profits of an illegal bribery scheme from bank accounts located in Antigua, United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere to and through bank accounts in the United States.
DOJ data indicates that those involved allegedly looted about $1.6 billion from Venezuela and transferred about $180 million to the United States or through U.S. banks.
According to the DOJ, Pulido, Vielma Mora, Rubio, Lizcano and Guillermo and others obtained contracts with Venezuelan government entities. These allow them to import and distribute boxes of food and medicine in Venezuela through CLAP by paying bribes to Venezuelan officials, including Vielma Mora.
“The defendants and their co-conspirators knowingly inflated the costs of the contracts to pay the bribes and unjustly enrich themselves,” reads the DOJ information. “The indictment also alleges that the co-conspirators directed funds to be transferred in furtherance of the kickback scheme while in the United States, and transferred money related to the scheme to bank accounts in the Southern District of Florida.”
Each defendant is charged with five counts: one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of money laundering. If convicted, each would face a maximum total penalty of 100 years in prison.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other legal factors.