Miami luxury real estate is known to be the richest South American's playground. It offers a good investment field, an amazing culture and an unparalleled weather! But this time it has been involved in a Venezuelan embezzlement and money laundering investigation!
The real estate market in South Florida has been involved in a multi-billionaire scheme of embezzlement and money-laundering for Venezuelan's state oil company PDVSA. $1.2 billion has been the total amount discovered in the criminal complaint for this case! At least 16 properties have been tied somehow to the investigation.
When you are purchasing a unit in Miami there are some steps you need to follow. However, it is kind of easy when you have the money and are willing to do the check. The provenance of the money is not the developers, the realtors or the escrow agent business. Or at least for some of them, as there is no legal obligation.
A clear example of some of the ones that only care of the fact of having a check to sign, are the ones involved in the only property that has been explicitly involved to the investigation. Which unit was it? 2205 at Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles.
The developer of this condo, Gil Dezer, is proud to say that for the project he builds they "market", and not just advertise. He was clear when telling in an interview with The Real Deal, that the upper level marketing he does it himself. We could all agree that the Porsche Design Tower was and "upper level marketing" project. However, he affirms never have met the buyer of the unit 2205. It sound really strange.
More strange is the buyer of the unit... Urdaneta Aqui, the legal counselor to Venezuelan oil ministry until 2015. It is clear that he was involved in some money laundering scheme, but how did he do it?
Something most of you do not know, is that the exchange rate in Venezuela is fixed and completely managed by the government. In a non-monopolized market, $1 million dollars could be exchanged for 60 million bolivars. But in today's context, the same amount in dollars equals 70 million bolivars. What happens with the extra 10? Well, they are normally launder in the international market, and real estate was the victim this time.
One of the money launderers, known as "Chente" needed to be remunerated for his job, and unit 2205 became the payment. Urdaneta trying to avoid the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), created a fake company under his wife's name and purchased the unit that ended up being under control of Amparan (real name of "Chente").
But why did they choose this luxury tower? It wasn't because they liked the style, decor, or anything about it. It was because real estate and escrow agents are not required to inform the FinCEN about any suspicious provenance of money, which might involve money laundering. Even if the National Association of realtor has been trying to lob the realtors to inform them, it remains voluntary.
It is true that realtors are the best way to understand buyer's intentions, as we are the ones who have the most direct contact with them. However, the real question is... How to test their intentions? How to tell we have a real reason?