22 Oct 2019
The daughter of late Venezuelan President 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.
InSight Crime Analysis
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.
Read more at InSight Crime
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