A Venezuelan financial guru is helping the US authorities after helping laundering billions of dollars out of the economy which led to its economy collapsing.
A few years ago, Venezuelan money maven Martin Lustgarten was stuck in a federal lockup on charges of laundering millions of dollars for Latin American drug traffickers as he confronted the grim reality of spending the rest of his life in prison.
Today, Lustgarten is a free man living in a $1 million Miami high-rise unit overlooking Biscayne Bay. His criminal case was dismissed because federal prosecutors mishandled it and couldn’t even take him to trial.
Lustgarten continues to count the money he amassed as a currency broker for Venezuelan business elites suspected of stealing billions and moving their fortunes to bank accounts in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Panama and Miami. But behind the scenes, he has also been helping the federal government build criminal cases against his former compatriots.
Since pleading guilty to a minor visa violation in 2015, Lustgarten has been assisting federal investigators and prosecutors in a sprawling Miami money-laundering probe targeting a former Swiss banker, a handful of connected Venezuelan businessmen and high-ranking government officials. They are suspected of paying hefty bribes while enriching themselves off the regimes of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, the late leader of the country’s socialist revolution.
In his cooperating role, Lustgarten’s value has been pointing US authorities in the right direction. He gave them a computer hard drive that implicated Venezuelan TV mogul Raul Gorrín and Venezuelan brothers Luis and Ignacio Oberto, both suspected kleptocrats close to the Venezuelan presidents. The cadre of people close to Chávez and Maduro who have enriched themselves under their regimes have their own class label: boliburgueses, a variation of bourgeoisie.