Venezuelan Probe Unveils Crypto Money Laundering Scheme Linked to Oil Sale Embezzlement; Kraken Involved

The Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, unveiled the second wave of detentions linked to a crypto money laundering scheme derived from unregistered oil sales paid in different currencies and crypto. The former president of the state-owned oil company PDVSA, Tareck El Aissami, the former Economy Minister Simon Alejandro Zerpa, and entrepreneur Samark Lopez were apprehended, accused of laundering these stolen funds through exchanges like Kraken and investing in cryptocurrency mining farms.

Venezuelan Government Links Unregistered Crude Sales to Crypto Money Laundering Operations on Kraken

The Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, unveiled on April 9 the second wave of detentions linked to an embezzlement scheme that involved the sale of oil paid in cash and cryptocurrency, and its subsequent laundering using different methods. The scheme, managed in tandem by the former President of the state-owned oil company PDVSA Tareck El Aissami, and the former head of the cryptocurrency watchdog Sunacrip Joselit Ramirez, involved assigning and liquidating an undetermined number of crude assignments using digital transactions and cash, evading national controls.

Saab related that through informants, it was known that El Aissami and Ramirez used the enactment of sanctions against the Venezuelan government as a pretense to sidestep standard procedures. The informants stated that, once, $35 million was received in the bank account of a facade company, and then part of this money was converted into crypto.

While Saab didn’t share numbers linked to these facts, earlier reports point out that close to $20 billion were lost due to these unregistered sales, which were subsequently laundered using cryptocurrency purchases and other methods. The involvement of cryptocurrency, according to Saab, was one of the factors that made this case difficult to investigate.

He stated:

These people used the most modern of the financial system, which are digital currencies. Digital financial technology was used to mask and evade responsibilities.

Saab declared that these money laundering transactions were completed through the intermediation of platforms like Kraken, a U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, making these operations “undetectable” for the national oversight organizations. He also stated that, on several occasions, this party used “cryptocurrency payments made abroad” to handle oil sales and avoid detection.

These embezzled funds were also invested in cryptocurrency mining farms in the country, with El Aissami’s knowledge.

As a result of this probe, El Aissami, the former Economy Minister Simon Alejandro Zerpa, and an entrepreneur who also facilitated the laundering of these funds through a digital bank, Samark Lopez, were arrested. Ramirez and others were apprehended more than a year ago, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the intervention of Sunacrip, which is still facing a restructuring process.

While this is the first time that the Venezuelan government publicly acknowledges the involvement of crypto in completing crude payments, there are public records on using cryptocurrency to broker Venezuelan oil sales. Five Russian and two Venezuelan nationals were indicted in October 2022 for money laundering and evading sanctions, having brokered an oil shipment using dollar-pegged stablecoins.

Source: Bitcoin

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