A lawyer with ties to Venezuela’s oil ministry, a member of the country’s “boliburguesía” elite and a money launderer sat around a Caracas office table while armed guards and a German shepherd with a shock collar stood watch.
The boliburgués placed his handgun on the table. It was November 2015, and the three Venezuelans were pressuring an unnamed associate to persist with a scheme that U.S. authorities would later allege embezzled $1.2 billion from the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA. Much of that money, according to a criminal complaint, ended up in South Florida real estate.
Among those reportedly alleged to be connected to the scheme: the three stepsons of the country’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro; a billionaire Venezuelan TV mogul; and former executives at PDVSA. Eight people have been charged in the case so far, while one defendant — a wealth