FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Miami’s Homeland Security Investigations has seized more than three million dollars in vehicles which were illegally headed to Venezuela as part of a smuggling ring operated for wealthy and politically connected people.
Eighty-one vehicles, valued at an estimated $3.2 million, were seized on June 16.
They were part of an international vehicle smuggling operation at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, in violation of U.S. export laws and sanctions against the Latin American nation’s socialist government.
HSI officials say the vehicles were purchased by buyers for corrupt politicians and businessmen, some of whom are under indictment in the United States.
“We have linked these 80 plus vehicles to numerous individuals we are investigating. And some of them have already been indicted. One of them is one of the largest money launderers in the world, Raul Gorrín,” said Anthony Salisbury, HSI Special agent in charge.
Gorrín, a Caracas media mogul and billionaire, is accused of stealing 2.4 billion from his own government.
“This is all part of an ongoing effort to combat foreign public corruption and in particular for public corruption in Venezuela and the laundering and the fleecing of the Venezuelan people’s wealth and the stealing of the Venezuelan wealth from the national treasury for the gain of a few politically exploited, exposed people, kleptocrats and their associates,” Salisbury said.
HSI said some of the vehicles carried police equipment like lights and sirens and were going to the Venezuelan national police.
Salisbury said the overall scheme is much larger, calling the seized vehicles “the tip of the iceberg, or a drop in the bucket for what we’ve started to identify for this illegal exploitation scam.”
Neither Gorrín nor anyone else has been charged as part of the federal criminal investigation into what Salisbury described as one of the biggest car-smuggling rackets in South Florida.