The Federal Government last week announced sanctions on seven individuals and 23 entities it says are tied to a scheme to manipulate currency exchange practices conducted by the Venezuelan government for pecuniary gain.
On January 8 the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the designation against the parties who it says bribed the Venezuelan Office of the National Treasury (ONT, or Oficina Nacional del Tesoro) to allow them to carry out illegal foreign exchange operations.
Per OFAC, the scheme began eleven years ago, beginning during the tenure of a former national treasurer who is currently serving a decade in federal prison for accepting over $1 billion in bribes. OFAC says the disgraced treasurer used exchange houses operating on the black market to sell Venezuelan currency at rates higher than legal, allowing the ONT to retain the difference and reap the reward of the illicit transactions.
Certain of the individuals designated by OFAC in the action in question were businessmen who paid bribes to the former treasurers in exchange for the right to legally operate exchange houses. The businessmen also held property purchased by the treasurers with their ill-gotten gains in foreign countries, buying real estate, expensive vehicles, or simply keeping the funds in offshore accounts. The businessmen allegedly attempted to mask their dealings by conducting them through an intricate web of shell corporations, and U.S. and foreign banks.
As with all OFAC sanctions, the individuals and entities listed are now legally prohibited from exercising their property interests in any holdings they may have in the jurisdiction of the United States, and Americans are prohibited from conducting business with them.
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