NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Florida construction equipment exporter’s owners were arrested on Wednesday on charges they illegally transferred over $100 million (£81 million) from businesses largely in Venezuela to U.S. and foreign bank accounts belonging to Venezuelan government officials and others.
Luis Diaz Jr., 74, and his son, Luis Javier Diaz, 49, were charged in a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to commit money laundering and operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Both men, who run Miami Equipment & Export Co, according to their firm’s website, were arrested in Miami, said a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Their lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case came amid U.S. Justice Department investigations that have focused on individuals tied to the Venezuelan government and their suspected roles in various bribery and drug-trafficking schemes.
According to the complaint, the family’s company, beginning in 2010, facilitated hundreds of hundreds of transmissions of funds into the United States on behalf of an unnamed large consortium of Venezuelan construction companies.
Those Venezuelan companies transferred at least $100 million to the family’s company, which forwarded funds to bank accounts around the world on behalf of the Venezuelan consortium’s employees and associates, the complaint said.
At the consortium’s request, they also transmitted money to unnamed Venezuelan government officials, including one who oversaw the award of certain contracts on which the Venezuelan companies bid, the complaint alleged.
For example, in 2012, the family’s firm received $4.36 million from the Venezuelan consortium, $1.45 million of which was to go to a Portuguese shell company controlled by a Venezuelan with ties to Venezuelan government officials, the complaint said.
That payment, according an email from a Venezuelan executive, was described in an invoice as being for “partial payment of advice on procurement, testing, precommissioning and commissioning,” the complaint said.
Of the remaining funds, nearly $2.55 million went to a British Virgin Islands shell company controlled by executives at the Venezuelan consortium, while the family’s company received a $87,218 fee, according to the complaint.
During the period in question, the Portuguese shell company controlled by the individual linked to Venezuelan officials received at least $17 million, the complaint said.
A further $41.4 million was transferred to three shell companies controlled by employees at the Venezuelan construction companies, according to the complaint.
The case is U.S. v. Diaz, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-mj-8150.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney