MIAMI (CN) – A Venezuelan attorney with a U.S. investor visa claims Univision defamed him in a story that accused him of laundering $3 million through a Miami-based bank, in cahoots with the president of Venezuela’s national oil company and “Mexican drug traffickers.”
Rene Buroz sued Univision Communications in Miami-Dade County Court.
“On or about August 30, 2011 Univision broadcast a news report through its Miami-based television outlet concerning an alleged money laundering operation involving the president of Venezuela’s oil concern, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (‘PDVSA’) and plaintiff Buroz. Univision reporters Gerardo Reyes and Casto Ocampo, published the same report on Univision’s website, Univision.com,” according to the complaint.
“The report claims that a legal dispute in Miami had uncovered a series of suspicious transactions emanating from a bank account held with Ocean Bank in Miami and implicates Buroz and Rafael Ramirez, PDVSA’s president, as complicit in a scheme which accomplished the transfer of over $3 million over a period of 14 months.
“The Univision report claims Buroz, identified therein by his initials ‘R.B.,’ accomplished these suspicious transfers by utilizing his Ocean Bank accounts in Miami to move funds he received from Ramirez between Venezuela and accounts in Switzerland and Luxembourg.
“Third-party sources played an integral role in providing Univision with the alleged facts upon which the report was based.”
These sources were “unnamed” in the report, which claimed that Buroz initiated transfers in amounts of $300,000 and $600,000 in 2007 and 2008, Buroz says.
“Univision further cites ‘court documents’ as the source of information that the account official with Ocean Bank, Niurka Sanchez, became suspicious when she realized the legal agreement Buroz submitted to her allegedly failed to justify the amounts Buroz was receiving. Sanchez, who at the time had initiated a multimillion-dollar wrongful termination suit against Ocean Bank just after reporting Buroz’s allegedly illicit transfers, is a person of dubious motivations. As herein explained, Sanchez’s version of the facts concerning Buroz’s bank account, and his purported client claimed to be the source of the funds, would prove to be utterly false,” the complaint states.
“The report further claims sources familiar with a ‘federal investigation’ advised Univision that Buroz submitted the legal agreement to demonstrate the funds Buroz received represented payments being made by Ramirez for legal fees. The report also gratuitously references connections between the bank and ‘Mexican drug traffickers,’ which would in the mind of any reader link plaintiff to such activity.
“Upon information and belief, no federal investigation into Buroz or the transfers was initiated by law enforcement.
“The report later implies Ocean Bank attempted to cover up Buroz’s activities due to his relationship with its president, Alfonso Macedo, whose family Buroz has represented in Venezuela.”
Buroz claims, “As a respected lawyer in Venezuela, Buroz’s professional reputation has been irreparably altered.”
Buroz says he does not represent PDVSA President Ramirez, and did not represent him during the relevant period, that the attorney engagement did not involve him, Buroz, but a client, that he never laundered money for PDVSA, Ramirez, the Venezuelan government “or any of its functionaries,” and that he “has no connection with Mexican drug traffickers.”
He is represented by Francis Sexton with Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Fauli of Coral Gables, and Bernard Mandler of Miami Beach.