A University of Miami professor who has long served as an expert on issues related to Venezuela and money laundering has been arrested by the Justice Department on suspicion of a Venezuela-related money laundering scheme.
The Justice Department announced the arrest of Florida professor Bruce Bagley, 73, on Monday for his alleged participation in a “conspiracy to launder the proceeds of a Venezuelan bribery and corruption scheme into the United States,” according to a release. Bagley is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of money laundering. Each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
“Bruce Bagley, a college professor and author of the book Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today, allegedly opened bank accounts for the express purpose of laundering money for corrupt foreign nationals,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “Moreover, the funds Bagley was allegedly laundering were the proceeds of bribery and corruption, stolen from the citizens of Venezuela.”
Beginning in November 2017, Bagley began receiving monthly deposits of about $200,000 from bank accounts based in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, which belonged to an unnamed “Colombian individual,” according to the Justice Department. Bagley would go to the bank along with a separate unnamed individual where he withdrew 90 percent of the funds by way of a cashier’s check meant for the second unnamed individual. He then sent the rest of the money to his own personal account. All told, $2.5 million flowed through that account.
Even after that first account was suspended in October 2018 on account of “suspicious activity,” Bagley opened another account and the process began again anew.
In its release, the Justice Department made clear that it had determined Bagley and one of the unnamed individuals had discussed the fact that “the funds represented the proceeds of foreign bribery and embezzlement stolen from the Venezuelan people.”
Bagley has been quoted by news outlets including NPR, CNN, and NBC as an expert on Venezuela, Colombia, and money laundering. One bio for the professor still available online says he has served as a “a consultant for the United Nations, the U.S. government and several governments in Latin America, on issues of drug trafficking, money laundering and public security.” One of the recent books he co-authored was titled Colombia's Political Economy at the Outset of the Twenty-First Century.
“Bagley, an American professor, contributed to the success of illegal activity overseas, carried out against the Venezuelan people, by facilitating access to illicitly obtained funds, and profiting from his role in the crime,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. “About the only lesson to be learned from Professor Bagley today is that involving oneself in public corruption, bribery, and embezzlement schemes is going to lead to an indictment.”
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