Venezuelan TV mogul who has amassed a real estate fortune in South
Florida and New York is now at the center ofa
$1.2 billion money-laundering investigation—
put there by a Swiss banker who has admitted guilt and is helping
Miami prosecutors build a criminal case against him.
Gorrín, owner of the Globovisión network in Caracas, is suspected
of steering $600 million from the country’s state-owned oil
company to a European bank to enrich himself, the three stepsons
of President Nicolás Maduro and other members of Venezuela’s
politically connected elite, according to new court records and
multiple sources familiar with the federal probe in Miami.
only as “Conspirator 7” in court records, Gorrín collaborated with
Swiss banker Matthias Krull to make the massive wire transfer two
years ago, sources say.
a German national described as a “door opener” for wealthy
Venezuelans seeking access to foreign banks, pleaded guilty this
week to a money-laundering conspiracy in Miami federal court.
Krull, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is the only person in
custody in Miami among the nine defendants charged so far in the
new money-laundering case. In his plea agreement, Krull has
promised to assist prosecutors in their broadening case
investigating Gorrín, Maduro, his stepsons and other Venezuelans.
For starters, Krull can provide eye-witness details of his
meetings with Gorrín at the tycoon’s office in Caracas and at his
condo on exclusive Fisher Island overlooking Biscayne Bay, in
which they discussed the $600 million transfer of embezzled oil
funds to a European bank, according to a statement filed with
the meetings in Caracas, Krull met with the president’s stepsons
and a Venezuelan businessman whom Gorrín introduced to the banker
as the “straw” representative for Maduro’s grown stepchildren from
his marriage to Cilia Flores, the statement said. During one
meeting, Gorrín boasted about his relationship with the
presidential family, telling Krull that the stepsons help him “by
intervening with their mother” whenever the media magnate needs to
“solve issues” with the president, the statement said, without
identifying Maduro or the stepsons by name.
straw representative, Mario Enrique Bonilla Vallera, now a
defendant in the Miami federal case, is accused of receiving $200
million in a European bank account for the benefit of the
stepsons. Gorrín is suspected of routing that money to the
stepsons, while transferring $80 million to an account for himself
in the same European bank, Krull’s statement said. An additional
$265 million was wired to the account of the lead money-laundering
defendant, Francisco Convit Guruceaga, a Venezuelan billionaire
businessman, and other co-conspirators.
lawyer in Miami, Howard Srebnick, has denied any wrongdoing by his
client, who has not been charged in the federal case. Srebnick
criticized the prosecution’s strategy of flipping the banker,
saying Krull is only looking to reduce his ultimate prison
sentence by testifying against Gorrín as part of his plea deal.
Trump himself condemns the prosecution’s practice of lowering the
sentence of a criminal in exchange for testifying against someone
else,” Srebnick said, referring to the federal probes delving into
Trump’s presidential campaign and personal life. “These plea
bargains motivate a convict like Krull to lie about a successful
media mogul like Gorrin in the hope that his so-called
‘cooperation’ will be his ticket out of jail.”
his plea agreement, Krull has promised to cooperate with Assistant
U.S. Attorney Francisco Maderal and Homeland Security
Investigations, including testifying before a federal grand jury.
Krull’s lawyer, Oscar S. Rodriguez, declined to comment.
Friday, Venezuela’s Ministry of Information did not respond to a
request for comment about the federal case in Miami.
who bought TV news channel Globovisión in March 2013, is
considered to be one of the wealthiest businessmen in Venezuela
largely because of his close connections with key members of the
Maduro regime, including the presidential family, and his
predecessor, the late President Hugo Chávez.
sale of Globovisión was a big blow to the opposition in Venezuela,
shutting down the last TV channel that challenged government
censorship. The station’s programming changed dramatically after
the sale, as prominent journalists resigned when the new owners
tried to impose a gag rule.
late 2017, Gorrín tried to broker an exit strategy with the Trump
administration for Venezuela’s beleaguered government, according
to various Washington sources, by peddling the idea that Maduro
and other key government leaders might be willing to negotiate a
transition in Venezuela in exchange for amnesty.Gorrín
met Vice President Mike Penceand was
seeking a meeting with Trump at the time, the sources said.
Gorrín, the president of Globovisión, during a visit in
Miami in 2014.
last year, Gorrín retained Ballard Partners — the firm of
President Donald Trump’s former Florida lobbyist — at a cost of
$50,000 a month to help his Venezuelan TV network expand into U.S.
that relationship has abruptly ended. A Ballard spokesperson told
the Miami Herald Friday that the firm terminated its
representation of Globovisión, citing concerns about a Herald
story in late July reporting that the media mogul was suspected of
participating in a massive money-laundering racket.
49, came from humble origins in Venezuela. He became a lawyer but
eventually evolved into a successful businessman. He gained
control of insurance company Aseguradora La Vitalicia, which he
acquired in 2008 with partners Juan Domingo Cordero and Gustavo
Perdomo. They also joined him in the purchase of Globovisión five
Gorrín and Perdomo have considerable real estate holdings in the
United States, including properties in the wealthy Cocoplum
enclave of Coral Gables — despite beingpart
of a Venezuelan elitethat once drew
public scorn from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
you know where they live?” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida
Republican, asked Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state
for the western hemisphere, at a Senate hearing held in 2014 to
approve sanctions against key leaders of the Venezuelan
live in Miami, where they own a mansion worth millions of dollars
in Cocoplum,” Rubio said. “They drive luxury cars and they laugh
at you and at us because they know they can do that with impunity.
Cocoplum estateis now on the market for
$8 million. Perdomo’s Cocoplum home is also for sale at $4.75
million. In addition, Gorrín owns a plush Manhattan apartment
worth close to $20 million and, according to court records, a
Fisher Island condo. He sold two other Manhattan apartments for a
total of $10 million, records show.
role in the alleged money-laundering conspiracy began in December
2014. The scheme involved the embezzlement of millions in oil
funds from Venezuela’s national old company, PDVSA, by initially
bribing government officials, according to a criminal affidavit.
The value of those funds was grossly inflated by converting
dollars and euros to bolivars on the government’s preferred
and others in the money-laundering network used an associate, who
would later become a confidential source for the feds, to move a
portion of the oil funds. By May of 2015, the conspiracy doubled
to $1.2 billion.
early 2016, the associate approached Homeland Security
investigators in Miami about cooperating and becoming a
confidential source, the affidavit says. The source agreed to wear
a recording device to launder $78 million that he had received
from a loan contract with the national oil company.
confidential source met with Krull, the banker, and separately
with Miami securities broker, Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez Frieri, to
discuss money-laundering schemes, according to the affidavit.
Hernandez, who was arrested in Italy last month, is awaiting
extradition to Miami.
defense attorney, Michael Pasano, said his client “has been
wrongly charged,” and that “the evidence will show that [he] had
no contact with Krull.”