National Security

Retired Miami professor sentenced to prison in Venezuela money laundering case

Judges use a small wooden mallet to signal for attention or order.

A retired University of Miami professor was sentenced to six months in prison on Tuesday in a money laundering case connected to Venezuela.

Bruce Bagley was sentenced by a ​​Manhattan federal judge after pleading guilty to money laundering charges, The Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors say Bagley received almost $3 million from Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Saab is currently facing his own money laundering charges in the U.S. after he was extradited from Cape Verde. He is accused of using government contracts with Venezuela to siphon money from a state-run housing program. 

“I am ashamed of my irresponsible behavior,” Bagley said in court, according to the AP. “I have spent my life as an academic working to understand and improve conditions in many countries in Latin America, and to be here today is the greatest departure from the life that I have aspired to.”

Bagley started getting payments of $200,000 a month from Saab in 2017, adding up to $3 million. The retired professor sent 90 percent of the money to lawyers for Saab in the U.S. who were representing him in secret meetings with the U.S. government, according to the AP.

The U.S. wanted information on the Venezuelan government from Saab, and Saab didn’t want to directly pay his lawyers in fear government officials from Venezuela would discover it, the AP reported. Bagley reportedly kept 10 percent of the money he received for himself as commission. 

“If there is anyone in the world who knew that this kind of activity was criminal it was Dr. Bagley,” Judge Jed Rakoff said. 

Although the charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, the judge said it would be “irrational” to give the ill 75-year-old professor the maximum sentence. 

Tags Alex Saab Bruce Bagley Corruption in Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Politics of Venezuela

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