Last month the United States government announced sanctions against a Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company over allegations that it has become a vector for corrupt government officials to move ill-gotten gains out of the country.
The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the firm on January 28, saying the company has been the site of a significant number of schemes by Venezuelan politicians to embezzle large amounts of money for themselves and their cohorts. OFAC cites as an example a currency-exchange scheme in 2014 initially intended to embezzle about $600 million from the firm’s coffers, the lion’s share of which was the product of bribery and other forms of corruption. However, just one year later, the scheme had allegedly netted conspirators a combined total of $1.2 billion in funds. Ultimately the firm’s former executive director of financial planning pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with the scheme.
OFAC describes a separate case in which senior Venezuelan officials, including the former Venezuelan vice minister of energy, a previous head of security and loss prevention at the firm, and a former official at a state-run electric company, allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks in exchange for assisting bidding firms in obtaining priority or other special favors from the company during the state’s liquidity crisis.
As a result of these sanctions, the firm’s assets in the jurisdiction of the United States are frozen, and American citizens are legally forbidden from transacting business with the firm or its agents.
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