BARRIO (BBC) – Claudia Díaz, who Chávez named as Venezuela’s national treasurer, is the latest in a series of Venezuelan ex-top officials to be jailed in the US.
Díaz and her husband had been found guilty of laundering millions of dollars they had received in bribes from a Venezuelan media mogul.
They had both denied the charges and rejected a plea deal.
Claudia Díaz and her husband, Adrián Velásquez, were arrested in 2018 in Spain, where they lived a lavish lifestyle.
She told BBC News Mundo in an interview [in Spanish] in 2018 that their riches were earned by her husband through businesses he had even before the couple had met.
But a court in Florida found the couple had accepted and laundered millions of dollars in bribes from Venezuelan media mogul Raúl Gorrín during Díaz’s time at the helm of Venezuela’s treasury from 2011 until 2013.
In exchange for the bribes, Díaz allowed Raúl Gorrín to buy US dollars at a cheaper rate from the treasury which he then resold on the black market at a huge profit, the court found.
The media tycoon, who owns Globovisión news network, has also been charged with corruption and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed him on its “most wanted” list. He is believed to be in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
The 15-year-sentence imposed on Claudia Díaz and her husband, who was President Chávez’s head of security, is one of the longest handed down by a US court against corrupt Venezuelan ex-officials.
The judge said that the couple had “made a lot of money” and “drastically changed their life” with their ill-gotten gains.
Diaz’s career in particular was meteoric. A Navy sergeant, she was part of the president’s guard of honour before joining the team that nursed Hugo Chávez when he had cancer.
Despite having no background in finance, Chávez named her national treasurer, a job she held from 2011 until the president’s death in 2013.
She and her husband then moved to Spain, where their luxurious lifestyle aroused the suspicions of the authorities.
They were extradited to the US last year.
US prosecutors have been instrumental in bringing corrupt Venezuelan former officials to justice, taking advantage of the fact that many of them purchased properties in Florida or used US bank accounts to stash their millions.