Venezuela was ranked third among countries with the largest dollar amounts in secret Swiss HSCB bank accounts, according to figures released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and leaked by an HSBC whistleblower.
According to the data, Venezuela had $14.8 billion in HSBC accounts in Switzerland between 1998 and 2007. That puts it third after Switzerland ($31.2 billion) and the United Kingdom ($21.7 billion).
The vast majority of the funds appear to be linked to Venezuela’s Treasury Office, which became an HSBC client in 2005. The office held as much as $11.9 billion in the account at one point, according to the ICIJ and reporters who had access to the data. By 2006-2007, however, the office held three bank accounts with $698 million.
It’s not illegal to have accounts in Switzerland, which is known for its banking secrecy, but it raises questions about the transparency of public funds, particularly at a time when Venezuela is struggling to keep its economy afloat.
The official listed on that account is Alejandro Andrade, who started off as a bodyguard for the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and rose through the ranks to become National Treasurer from 2007-2010. Andrade was also president of the Economic and Social Development Bank of Venezuela (Bandes) from 2008-2010. During his time at the financial institution, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged four individuals in a kickback scheme that generated $66 million revenue for a Miami brokerage, but Andrade was not named in the suit, according to the ICIJ.
According to media reports, Andrade lives in Wellington in Palm Beach County and has invested in show horses.
The banking information, known as Swiss Leaks, was provided by Hervé Falciani, a former HSBC employee turned whistleblower who handed the data over to the French government in 2008. The French newspaper Le Monde obtained the data and shared it with the ICIJ, which assembled an international group of reporters to disseminate the information. The data covers the accounts of more than 100,000 clients from 200 countries.