Article Courtesy of The
Daily Business Review
By Lidia Dinkova
Published September 11, 2018
The federal government wants to seize a three-bedroom
condo at the glitzy Porsche Design Tower, a Miami mansion and two others
in Coral Gables as part of an alleged conspiracy to launder $1.2 billion
embezzled from Venezuela’s oil company.
Authorities charge an elaborate network designed to clean money taken
from state-run Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA, and place funds in
fake investments and South Florida real estate.
Originally, the only Miami-Dade County real estate connection made
public was the 3,171-square-foot unit in Porsche Design Tower, the Sunny
Isles Beach condominium built by Dezer Development and equipped with the
Dezervator elevator for residents’ cars. Unit No. 2205 was alleged to be
part of a suspicious transfer between two people charged in the
Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, former counsel to the Venezuelan oil ministry, is
accused of giving the condo to Jose Amparan Croquer as a fee for
laundering services in a currency exchange fraud, according to a July 23
affidavit. Urdaneta transferred ownership of Paladium Real Estate Group
LLC, the company he used to buy the condo, from his wife to Amparan’s
wife, Carolina, essentially giving Amparan control of both Paladium and
Paladium, registered with the state in May 2016, bought the unit in
January 2017 for $5.3 million from the developer’s affiliate 18555
Developers LLC, according to the Miami-Dade County property appraiser’s
office and the state Division of Corporations.
Federal authorities might pursue forfeiture of the unit, according to a
July 27 notice filed in federal court.
No attorneys are listed for Amparan or Urdaneta.
Ties linking the other properties to money laundering are less clear.
Federal authorities want to seize two estates in Coral Gables’ affluent
Cocoplum enclave — a 4,190-square-foot, five-bedroom home at 194 Isla
Dorada Blvd. and a 4,677-square-foot, four-bedroom home at 6905 Prado
Blvd. — plus a 3,962-square-foot, three-bedroom home at 597 Hibiscus
Lane in Miami’s Bay Point neighborhood, according to forfeiture notices
filed Aug. 29. Also, there’s a forfeiture notice for a
38,200-square-foot vacant lot in Coral Gables.
An Aug. 17 indictment charged eight people with involvement in the
conspiracy and lists the four properties without much elaboration. They
are described as substitute real estate the federal government should be
allowed to seize if other property and assets subject to forfeiture
can’t be taken.
The scheme allegedly started in December 2014, and authorities learned
of it two years later when someone involved came forward to turn in 78
million euros and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Two have been arrested, including a former executive at Swiss bank
Julius Baer Group Ltd.
Matthias Krull, the bank’s former managing director and vice chairman,
was arrested in Miami on July 24, a day after the criminal complaint and
affidavit was filed. Krull, who is a German resident of Panama, has
pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracy and faces up to 10 years
in prison at sentencing set Oct. 29 before U.S. District Judge Cecilia
Altonaga in Miami.
He has admitted attracting Venezuelan clients, including a defendant,
while working for the bank and joining the money-laundering conspiracy,
federal prosecutors said.
Gustavo Hernandez Frieri, a Colombian national with U.S. citizenship,
was arrested July 24 in Sicily, and remains on house arrest in Italy as
extradition proceedings are pending.
His attorney, Carlton Fields shareholder Michael Pasano in Miami, denied
“Gustavo Hernandez has been unfairly targeted and wrongly charged, and
the evidence will show that he had no contact with Matthias Krull and is
not a money launderer. Mr. Hernandez is fighting these accusations,”
Pasano said in an emailed statement.
Krull and Frieri are among the eight charged in the complaint and
described in an affidavit filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement special agent George Fernandez.
The others are Venezuelans Francisco Convit Guruceaga, Abraham Eduardo
Ortega, Hugo Andre Ramalho Gois of Portugal, Marcelo Gutierrez Acosta y
Lara of Uruguay, Amparan and Urdaneta.
Separately, the Aug. 17 indictment charged Guruceaga, Ortega, Amparan,
Urdaneta, Gois, Acosta y Lara and Frieri with money-laundering
conspiracy and other counts specific to each defendant. The indictment
also charges Venezuelan businessman Mario Bonilla Vallera with