Andorran bank Banca Privada d’Andorra

The United States has accused Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA of laundering $2 billion through offshore bank accounts, in the latest blow to the credibility of President Nicolas Maduro's administration. 

In a March 10 press release, the US Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) stated that a high-level manager at the Andorran bank Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) created front companies and financial products to siphon off money from PDVSA. In total, the BPA processed $2 billion in PDVSA funds as part of the scheme, according to FinCEN.

Unidentified sources told El Nuevo Herald that the United States is investigating the possibility that PDVSA was used to launder money stemming from criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. 

The accusations are part of a wider investigation into BPA, which FinCEN said has also laundered money for Russian and Chinese criminal organizations. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The accusation of a massive money laundering network run within PDVSA has serious implications for President Nicolas Maduro's administration. PDVSA is a principal economic motor for the Venezuelan economy, and has largely financed the Chavista regime. Although no government officials have been formally accused in this case, the close association between the two state institutions does not help Venezuela's poor track record on official corruption.

Indeed, this is not the first time PDVSA has been implicated in wrongdoing. In January, a Venezuelan defector claimed that PDVSA airplanes were used for drug smuggling, and that the oil company laundered the proceeds. Authorities have also arrested a PDSVA executive and an official in Venezuela's oil ministry this year on corruption charges. Considering the fact that the country's largest drug trafficking group is thought to be the Cartel of the Suns, which is comprised of corrupt Venezuelan military officials, the idea that PDVSA could be laundering drug money is not outlandish. 

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

What's more, clients associated with Venezuela have nearly $15 billion stashed in Swiss HSBC bank accounts, more than double the amount held by individuals connected to any other Latin American country. While money in HSBC Swiss accounts does not necessarily imply wrongdoing, the bank has repeatedly been fined for failing to report suspicious transactions and in 2012 paid a $1.9 billion settlement for allegedly facilitating money laundering.

Given the well-documented diplomatic tensions between the United States and Venezuela, it is possible the timing of FinCEN's report was politically motivated. The press release came just a day after the US government declared that the political and economic turmoil in Venezuela posed an "extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." The United States also sanctioned seven Venezuelan government officials for their role in human rights abuses. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.