Venezuela former chief justice indicted in U.S. for money laundering

FILE PHOTO: Maikel Moreno, at the time President of Venezuela's Supreme Court, speaks to the media at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's former chief justice Maikel Moreno has been indicted on money laundering charges related to bribe payments he allegedly received in exchange for influencing court decisions, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Southern District of Florida said.

Moreno allegedly took over $10 million in bribes and used the funds to purchase or renovate real estate in Tuscany, Italy, and Miami, among other places, according to a statement late on Thursday.

"During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Moreno received bribes in exchange for influencing actions in criminal cases, including dismissing criminal charges and arrest warrants or ordering home confinement for charged defendants," according to the statement.

Moreno was replaced as chief justice in 2022, but retains a position as a judge on the court. Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Moreno is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of concealment of money laundering, and two counts of engaging in transactions in criminally derived property, according to the statement.

The United States in 2020 sanctioned Moreno and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction for allegedly participating in transnational organized crime.

A 2017 Reuters investigation found Moreno had faced allegations that he participated in extortion and influence-peddling rackets and that he was arrested in 1989 on suspicions of killing a teenager.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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