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Coconut Grove resident faces federal charges in $250M corruption plot in Venezuela

Naman Wakil, 59, of Miami, a Syrian and Venezuelan national and U.S. legal permanent resident, allegedly conspired with others to make bribe payments to Venezuelan officials, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Naman Wakil, 59, of Miami, a Syrian and Venezuelan national and U.S. legal permanent resident, allegedly conspired with others to make bribe payments to Venezuelan officials, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. (DOJ, AP)

MIAMI – A man who lives in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood bought 10 real estate properties, a $3.5 million plane, a $1.5 million yacht and other luxurious bribes to get access to at least $250 million in Venezuelan government contracts, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Special agents with the Miami field offices for U.S. Homeland Security and the IRS accused Naman Wakil of also using U.S. bank accounts during the alleged 2010-2017 scheme to get highly inflated contracts with Venezuelan state-owned Corporación de Abastecimiento y Servicios Agrícola, or CASA, and Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA.

The scheme involved buying properties and transferring ownership to shell companies. Among the properties agents investigated was apartment 2605 at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach. The three-bedroom unit with ocean views was a $5.6 million pre-construction deal that Wakil later transferred to Wakilisimo LLC about a year later, property records show.

There were also several 1010 Brickell condos, and Wakil, 59, also used shared company accounts in the Cayman Islands, Panama and Switzerland, investigators found, according to the July 29 indictment. Wakil also allegedly made money by inflating costs and having officials look the other way. In one government contract, Wakil’s company charged $11.2 million for pipes that he purchased in China for $1.3 million, according to the indictment.

Wakil was arrested Tuesday and appeared in federal court Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, conspiracy to commit money laundering, international promotional money laundering, and three counts of engaging in transactions involving criminally derived property, according to federal prosecutors.

By way of marriage to Ingrid Sayegh, Wakil was the brother-in-law of Carlos Osorio, Venezuela’s former minister of food, according to federal agents. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Osorio after Venezuela’s National Assembly audit commission alleged in 2016 that he was complicit in swindling Venezuela out of up to $573 million through corruption in Venezuela’s food program.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Berger, of the Southern District of Florida, and Attorney Alexander Kramer, of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section, are prosecuting the case. Wakil has a pretrial detention hearing scheduled at 10 a.m., on Friday, at the federal magistrate court in Miami. If convicted, he faces up to 80 years in prison.

The indictment


About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.