Venezuela US Sanctions

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2003 file photo, an employee at Globovision, a 24-hour television news channel, works behind a glass reading "News" with Globovision's logo "G" at the channel's headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela. On Jan. 8, 2019, the Trump administration is imposing sanctions on Venezuelan media magnate Raul Gorrin for allegedly running a network that stole $2.4 billion from state coffers through corrupt currency deals, giving Gorrin one year to divest his shares in Globovision. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch, File)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The Trump administration imposed sanctions Tuesday on a Venezuelan media magnate close to President Nicolas Maduro’s government for allegedly being the ringleader of a graft network that stole $2.4 billion from state coffers through corrupt currency deals.

The action by the U.S. Treasury Department gives Raul Gorrin and his business partner Gustavo Perdomo one year to divest their shares and control of Globovision in order to lift sanctions against Venezuela’s largest private broadcaster. Globovision is among 24 companies and entities whose U.S. bank accounts will be frozen and barred from doing business in the United States.

“Regime insiders have plundered billions of dollars from Venezuela while the Venezuelan people suffer,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.  “Our actions against this corrupt currency exchange network expose yet another deplorable practice that Venezuela regime insiders have used to benefit themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”

Prosecutors in Miami indicted Gorrin last year on charges of paying millions in bribes to senior officials in Venezuela’s treasury for contracts to buy dollars at the highly overvalued official exchange rate. He then would allegedly resell the hard currency on the black market, turning a huge profit overnight.

Treasury said Gorrin plowed the earnings into yachts, horses, private jets and a number of luxury properties in Miami and Manhattan. He also allegedly invested funds for other high-level officials, including Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno, and used the proceeds to buy gifts for first lady Cilia Flores.

Gorrin, Perdomo and Globovision didn’t respond to a request seeking comment.

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