The United States Department of the Treasury unveiled sanctions today ten individuals today—including three of Maduro’s stepsons—alleging that they were involved in corruption involving state funds and the CLAP subsidized food distribution network.
In a lengthy narrative posted its website, the Department of the Treasury alleges that a Venezuelan businessman named Alex Saab bribed Maduro’s three stepsons to win no-bid contracts related to the CLAP network in order to “loot hundreds of millions” worth of dollars that should have gone to feed Venezuelan families. According to the Department of the Treasury, Saab used a “sophisticated network of shell companies” and individuals to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen money, and that the scheme began in 2009 when Saab began to exploit his personal ties to Maduro’s inner circle.
In 2016, the Treasury press release alleges, Saab became involved in the newly-created CLAP distribution network through a “corporate structure” that he used to buy food from abroad to be shipped to Venezuela for use with the network. According to the press release:
Under Maduro’s watch, Saab reaped substantial profits and imported only a fraction of the food needed for the CLAP program.
The end result of the scheme was not only the personal enrichment of Saab and his associates, but also the deliver of poor-quality food at low quantities for those depending on the CLAP system for sustenance.
The sanctioned individuals are:
- Alex Nain Saab Moran (Saab): Oversaw “a sophisticated network of front and shell companies” used to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars out of Venezuela through the CLAP system.
- Shadi Nain Saab Certain (Shadi): Saab’s son.
- Isham Ali Saab Certain: Saab’s son.
- Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas (Pulido): Saab’s business partner.
- Emmanuel Enrique Rubio Gonzalez (Rubio): Pulido’s son and business partner.
- Walter Jacob Gavidia Flores: Maduro’s stepson. Received bribes and kickbacks from Saab and Pulido in exchange for CLAP contracts.
- Yosser Daniel Gavidia Flores: Maduro’s stepson. Received bribes and kickbacks from Saab and Pulido in exchange for CLAP contracts.
- Mariana Andrea Staudinger Lemoine: Yosser’s wife.
- Yoswal Alexander Gavidia Flores: Maduro’s stepson. Received bribes and kickbacks from Saab and Pulido in exchange for CLAP contracts.
- Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora (Vielma Mora): Former governor of Tachira State. Benefited from Saab’s corruption scheme.
Maduro introduced the CLAP distribution network in early 2016, allegedly as a means to combat the scarcity that was gripping supermarkets around the country at that time. According to the government, the main benefit of the system was that CLAP system would deliver food items and basic necessities directly to communities, bypassing the need for supermarkets.
Almost immediately upon launch, the CLAP system began to be criticized as ineffective, not only because it delivered poor-quality and expired food, but also because communities had to wait months before receiving their CLAP shipments.
Last year, the Venezuelan investigative journalism outfit Armando.info published a report naming Saab as the kingpin of a corruption scheme involving the CLAP network. The Maduro government responded to Armando.info’s investigations by banning them from publishing anything related to Saab in the future, a measure that forced some of the organization’s staff to flee the country for their safety.
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