Venezuelan accused of corruption receives $ 50 million bond

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Leaked emails from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca describe globetrotting entrepreneur Naman Wakil as a wealthy man with more than $ 400 million in assets, including business and real estate interests in Miami. He wanted to reduce his tax liability in the United States and protect his assets from creditors, emails reveal. WITH THE AUTHORIZATION OF ICIJ

In a deal to free himself from a Miami federal prison, a Venezuelan businessman accused of stealing a fortune in contracts with foreign governments must obtain a $ 50 million bond with luxury properties in the South Florida and a huge amount of money in his Swiss bank account.

Naman Wakil, who was born in Syria before immigrating to Venezuela and later settling in Miami, was considered a flight risk when arrested earlier this month. But federal prosecutors and his defense attorney have accepted the terms of his bail as he awaits arraignment. An examining magistrate on Friday approved the conditions for his release before trial.

But there are more steps to securing your huge personal bond. Wakil to complete transfer of $ 21.3 million from his Swiss bank account to the Miami Federal Court registry, as federal authorities place liens on more than a dozen properties, a plane, a yacht and accounts local banks to cover the balance of the deposit.

Federal agents arrested Wakil in corruption and money laundering conspiracy, accusing him of paying bribes to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in food and oil contracts from the Venezuelan government , then divert part of the contaminated income towards luxury real estate in Miami-Dade. Marlet. Through political connections, Wakil’s food and oil companies landed government contracts between 2010 and 2017, and he transferred the proceeds through banks to the United States, Cayman Islands, Panama and Switzerland, according to one. indictment filed by Assistant US Attorney Michael Berger.

Among its assets that the feds want to seize: the family condo at Residences at Vizcaya on Hiawatha Avenue in Coconut Grove as well as in high-rise buildings on Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami and at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach. The total value of his purchases is at least $ 50 million, according to court documents, this is how the two sides determined the amount of his bond.

Wakil’s defense attorney Stephen Binhak declined to comment on the bail deal or the conspiracy charges. Wakil, 59, a legal resident of the United States, is being held at the Miami Federal Detention Center until he posts bail. His appearance is scheduled for August 18.

According to new details in a recently unsealed indictment, Wakil has started paying bribes to officials at the Venezuelan state-owned food company known as CASA to secure supply contracts over the years ago. ten years. The contracts were issued by the Ministry of People’s Power for food.

The first contract was for $ 30 million, which was deposited into one of Wakil’s commercial accounts in the Cayman Islands. He then sent $ 750,000 to the South Florida bank account of a Venezuelan official, according to the indictment.

In 2012, Wakil expanded his food supply business and landed a $ 225 million contract with the Venezuelan government. The contractual payments were transferred to his corporate bank accounts in Switzerland. In turn, he transferred $ 11 million to the Swiss bank account of another Venezuelan official, according to the indictment.

At the same time, Wakil transferred at least $ 50 million to his personal account in Switzerland and then embezzled $ 20 million of that money into his bank accounts in Miami, according to the indictment. He used that money to buy 10 Miami apartments, a $ 3.5 million plane, and a $ 1.5 million yacht.

A few years later, Wakil diversified its activities by entering into supply agreements with subsidiaries of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, said prosecutor Berger, who pointed to a track of corruption extending to Miami.

A deal for the pipes stood out: In 2015, another Venezuelan official approved the $ 11.2 million contract with PDVSA’s subsidiary, Petropiar. According to the indictment, Wakil obtained the supply of pipes for $ 1.3 million from China and sold them for about nine times that amount to the subsidiary PDVSA.

Wakil then conspired with others to transfer money through bank accounts in Panama and South Florida. .

Wakil is the latest member of Venezuela’s politically connected business class to be charged in Miami Federal Court with exploiting intimate relationships with senior officials in the governments of former President Hugo Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro to get rich on inflated government contracts, lucrative loans and foreign exchange. exchange schemes. Most of their money ended up in Swiss and foreign bank accounts, as well as investments in South Florida real estate.

Wakil, an entrepreneur of Syrian origin, gained notoriety in 2016 when he appeared in a McClatchy series on the Panama Papers scandal that revealed secret shell companies installed in offshore bank accounts by wealthy clients of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The accounts were created to help the law firm’s clients hide money, make investments abroad and evade taxes, according to the McClatchy series.

Jay Weaver writes about bad guys who specialize in scams, scams and the millions. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he has covered federal courts nonstop, from the custody battle for Elian to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was part of the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News in 2001. He and three colleagues at the Herald were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2019 for a series on smuggled gold from South America in Miami.


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