A Venezuelan woman who rose from being then-President Hugo Chavez’s nurse to the nation’s chief treasury appeared in US court Friday to face money laundering charges.

Federal prosecutors in Florida accuse Claudia Diaz, 48, of taking bribes from a media mogul to authorize lucrative currency transactions when she was the director of the National Treasury Office a decade ago.

After being extradited from Spain, Diaz appeared before Judge William Matthewman in federal court in West Palm Beach, wearing shackles and a blue prison uniform. She did not speak and her lawyer Marissel Descalzo said that she was not going to comment. The judge set a bail hearing for Tuesday.

The Spanish National Court approved Diaz’s extradition in October despite its attempts to block it, arguing that she could answer the charges in Spain, where an investigation has also been carried out. The Spanish court decided that the accusations were different and that the American investigation was much broader.

Diaz’s husband, Chavez’s former security chief Adrián Velásquez, also faces charges. Velásquez awaits extradition to the United States after exhausting his appeals before the National Court.

Diaz and her husband are accused of accepting at least $4.2 million as part of the bribery scheme.

Prosecutors say that, in exchange for the payments, Díaz guaranteed businessman Raúl Gorrín, owner of the last large private television network in Venezuela, Globovisión, the rights to exchange more than $1 billion in foreign currency in the United States on behalf of of the Venezuelan government. The prosecution says they and other officials close to Chavez made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

Gorrín is still in Venezuela and is on the list of most wanted people by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service. Washington imposed sanctions on its television network in 2019.

Court documents show the couple transferred millions of dollars out of the South American country, buying gold bars through a shell company in the Caribbean and keeping them in a bank vault in Liechtenstein.


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