When the history of Venezuela's ongoing collapse is finally written, entire chapters will be dedicated to the crooks. Swindlers, scoundrels, and sinvergüenzas of all stripes — protected by a wall of state-sanctioned corruption that allowed them to siphon billions of dollars out of the country into private bank accounts around the world. Those common crooks, who robbed blind what was once Latin America's wealthiest country, are as much to blame for bringing Venezuela to its knees as the grievous economic mismanagement and illiberal governance wrought by Chavismo.
Alejandro Andrade is one such crook. The former head of Venezuela's treasury, Andrade received a maximum ten-year sentence last November from a federal judge in West Palm Beach after pleading guilty to taking a staggering $1 billion in bribes as part of a money-laundering scheme. Inevitably, much of that ill-gotten fortune ended up in Miami's booming real-estate market, which in recent years has taken in more money from Venezuela than any other foreign country, including China and Russia. As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Andrade agreed to forfeit the fruits of his rapacity, which included multiple properties in Palm Beach County, the contents of nine bank accounts, a fleet of luxury cars, fancy watches, and more than 15 show horses imported from Europe.
Today some souvenirs of corrupt Venezuelan history can be yours — for a price. Beginning this morning, the U.S. government will auction off four properties purchased with Andrade's illegitimate riches, worth an estimated $10 million, in the gated community of Palm Beach Point.
The most expensive of the lots is a gated equestrian estate of nearly six acres, which contains a single-family home, a horse stable, paddocks, and an all-weather ring. The home has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, an in-ground pool and spa, and five-car garage. Meanwhile, the 22-stall horse stable measures more than 7,800 square feet and comes with an office, apartment, and bathrooms. The property was sold for $4.75 million in 2012 and is now valued at $4.5 million by county appraisers.
Down the street, you'll find the second luxury estate, a seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home on more than ten acres. Andrade didn't hold back on the furnishings: Along with the usual fixtures, the property comes with a game room, wet bar, wine storage room, mudroom, media room, multiple laundry rooms, and a three-car garage. Outside are an in-ground pool and spa, a summer kitchen, a cabana bath, and a private pond. This little slice of the good life went for $3.5 million in 2012 and is valued around $4.2 million.
Drive about two miles from the homes (or ride if you're a horse fanatic like Andrade) and you'll end up at what the federal government is bundling as a two-for-one sale. The properties, which include agricultural and residential land, total more than eight acres. There are equestrian areas, office space, and a three-bed, two-bath home. Want more horse stalls? You're in luck. The property includes a 14-stall rear barn and a 24-stall front barn, complete with five tack rooms.
The auction was set up by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In May, another of Andrade's Palm Beach homes, on the oceanfront, sold for $11 million. The government received another $2 million from the auction of 17 show horses Andrade imported from Europe for his son, an Olympic equestrian.
People like Andrade prove that Venezuela, which is home to more species of birds than almost any other place in the world, also boasts incredible biodiversity when it comes to breeds of thieves. And for those curious what the lavish lifestyle of a real-life petro-state crook looks like, look no further.
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