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A U.S. probe into the laundering of US$1 billion from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA has spread to the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, the Miami Herald reports, citing unnamed sources in the know.
Although Maduro has not been named in the criminal complaint filed with the Miami federal court earlier this month, the president along with other senior Venezuelan officials are being investigated for their alleged participation in the scheme that involved channeling hundreds of millions of dollars from PDVSA into U.S. and European banks, as well as real estate in Florida and other assets.
“Everything runs through him,” one of the Miami Herald’s sources said but even if official charges are made against Maduro the chances of him facing trial in the United States are slim to non-existent. What official charges would do is just increase the pressure on the Venezuelan President, the daily says, as the country writhes in the throes of hyperinflation caused by the combination of oil overdependence and U.S. sanctions.
Last week, U.S. federal prosecutors said eight individuals have been charged for participating in the money-laundering scheme, and two have been arrested. According to Miami U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg, the scheme dates back to 2014 and has expanded ever since. It involved, besides Venezuelan state officials, money managers and brokerages, as well as real estate investment firms.
The probe signals the U.S. has no intention of releasing the grip on Venezuela but the actual effects of any investigation on Maduro’s own grip on power in Venezuela are questionable. The President won another presidential term back in May despite opposition and despite the constantly worsening economic situation in the country.
With oil production at the lowest in several decades due to lack of funds for field and equipment maintenance after years of mismanagement, and with six-figure inflation rates, Venezuela is, in the eyes of many observers, dying a slow death.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.