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  • President Trump issues new Venezuela Executive Order targeting gold sector; OFAC publishes related FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On November 1, President Trump issued Executive Order 13850 (E.O. 13850) authorizing the imposition of sanctions on persons who operate in Venezuela's gold sector “or in any other sector of the Venezuelan economy as may be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.” The sanctions come in response to the actions of Venezuelan President Maduro’s regime and associated persons in allegedly “plunder[ing] Venezuela's wealth for their own corrupt purposes.” Among other things, the sanctions specifically block the acquisition or retention of property and interests in the United States by persons who “operate in the gold sector of the Venezuelan economy” or “have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity or transaction” involving deceptive practices or corruption in conjunction with the Venezuelan government.

    The same day, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a set of FAQs connected to the issuance of E.O. 13850, stating that it “expects to use its discretion to target in particular those who operate corruptly in the gold or other identified sectors of the Venezuela economy, and not those who are operating legitimately in such sectors.”

    E.O. 13850 is issued in conjunction with E.O.s 13692, 13808, 13827, and 13835. See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of Venezuelan actions and E.O.s.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Executive Order Venezuela Sanctions Trump Department of Treasury

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  • Former Venezuelan state-owned oil company procurement officer pleads guilty

    Financial Crimes

    On October 30, a Texas businessman, who was a former procurement officer for PDVSA, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder the bribe payments he and his co-conspirators at PDVSA received for directing PDVSA business to a Miami-based supplier. The scheme involved false invoices, false e-mail addresses, and shell companies with a Swiss bank account.

    For prior coverage of the company's actions, please see here.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Swiss banker sentenced to 10 years in Venezuelan state-owned oil company embezzlement and bribery scheme; official pleads guilty in same scheme

    Financial Crimes

    On October 29, a former banker was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for his role in a scheme to launder funds embezzled from a Venezuelan state-owned oil company. The banker had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering on August 22, 2018. He admitted to using his position at the bank to attract clients from Venezuela. He helped some of those clients launder proceeds from the company's foreign-exchange embezzlement scheme using false-investment schemes and Miami real estate. The PDVSA money was originally obtained through bribery and fraud. 

    Two days later, on October 31, a former executive director of financial planning at the Venezuelan state-owned oil company pleaded guilty to charges related to his role in the same scheme. He admitted to accepting $5 million in bribes to give priority loan status to a French company and Russian bank. The former executive was paid with the proceeds of the same foreign-exchange embezzlement scheme. He admitted that he ultimately received $12 million in bribes for his participation in the embezzlement scheme and laundered that money with a co-defendant through a false-investment scheme. He is expected to be sentenced on January 9, 2019.

    Financial Crimes Bribery Anti-Money Laundering

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  • OFAC adds members of Venezuelan President Maduro’s inner circle to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    On September 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Order 13692. OFAC’s additions to the list include four members of Venezuelan President Maduro’s inner circle, along with a “front network” identified as acting for or on behalf of a sanctioned member of the Maduro regime. According to OFAC, the additional sanctions are issued in response to the Maduro regime's continued “corruption and gross mismanagement.” As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from dealing with them.

    OFAC also referenced FinCEN advisories issued August and September 2017 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here and here) as a source for additional information on “the methods that Venezuelan senior political figures, their associates, and front persons use to move and hide corrupt proceeds,” including the potential for exploitation within the U.S. financial system and real estate market.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions Venezuela

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  • DOJ secures additional guilty pleas in wide-ranging Venezuelan energy company case

    Financial Crimes

    On September 13, the DOJ announced two additional guilty pleas in its wide-ranging foreign bribery investigation into payments to officials of a Venezuela’s state-owned energy company. The first individual, a former manager of a Texas-based logistics and freight forwarding company, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in connection with corruptly securing contracts, contract extensions, and favorable contract terms from the energy company. He pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas, as did the second individual, the energy company official who accepted the bribes, and whose guilty plea was also unsealed. As now revealed, in July 2017, the second individual pleaded guilty under seal to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Both individuals are scheduled to be sentenced in February 2019. Prior Scorecard coverage of the PDVSA matter can be viewed here.

    With these guilty pleas, DOJ has now brought charges against 18 individuals as part of its investigation into bribery at the company. Fourteen individuals have pleaded guilty. Due to the limits inherent in the FCPA, the DOJ’s charges against the corrupt foreign officials such as the second individual (i.e., the energy company's employees) have been based on money laundering and not FCPA (see Prior FCPA Scorecard Coverage here and here) whereas the charges against the U.S.-based individuals who made and/or directed the corrupt payments generally have included FCPA violations (see Prior FCPA Scorecard Coverage here).

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA

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  • Another executive arrested in Venezuelan energy company bribery case

    Financial Crimes

    On August 1, DOJ announced the arrest of a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen on foreign bribery charges for making and conspiring to make corrupt payments to an official of a Venezuela’s state-owned energy company. He was arrested at Miami International Airport on an arrest warrant based on a criminal complaint in the Southern District of Texas, which was unsealed on July 31. He made an initial appearance before a magistrate judge in the Southern District of Florida.

    According to the criminal complaint, the citizen and a co-conspirator paid at least $629,000 in bribes to a former company official in exchange for favorable business treatment for his companies, including: (1) directing company contracts to his companies, (2) giving his companies priority over other vendors to receive payments, and (3) awarding his companies contracts in U.S. dollars rather than Venezuelan bolivars.

    DOJ has announced charges against 17 individuals, including the citizen, as part of its investigation into bribery at the company. 12 individuals have pleaded guilty.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Bribery

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  • Latest conviction in Venezuelan oil company bribery case

    Financial Crimes

    On July 16, 2018, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The citizen’s convictions relate to allegations that he bribed officials at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and laundered money for bribes to other company employees. FCPA Scorecard provided earlier coverage of this case here.

    The citizen admitted to soliciting and directing bribes from two U.S. citizens in exchange for securing payment priority for their companies from the oil company and for awards of the company's contracts. The citizen also admitted to conspiring with these individuals to launder and conceal the proceeds of the scheme through a series of financial transactions, including wire transfers to offshore accounts. Sentencing is scheduled for September 24.

    His conviction underscores how wide investigations can become as the DOJ continues pulling threads and obtaining guilty pleas. The DOJ has charged 15 defendants in the company's cases, 12 of whom have pleaded guilty to date, including the citizen. The DOJ also credited the assistance of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and the Spanish Guardia Civil.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • OFAC issues Venezuela General License, updates FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On July 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License 5 (GL 5) to allow U.S. persons to engage in transactions related to the financing for, and other dealings in the Petroleos de Venezuela SA 2020 8.5 Percent Bond that would otherwise by prohibited by Executive Order 13835 (E.O. 13835). (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) OFAC also published two additional FAQs to provide additional guidance on the reasons for the issuance of GL 5 as well as answers to whether E.O. 13835 prohibits U.S. persons having a legal judgment against the Government of Venezuela from attaching and executing against Venezuelan government assets, including vessels, properties, or financial assets.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Venezuela sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Venezuela International

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  • President Trump issues new Executive Order prohibiting the purchase of debt from the Venezuelan government

    Financial Crimes

    On May 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O.) prohibiting U.S. companies or individuals from buying debt or accounts receivable from the Venezuelan government “in light of the recent activities of the Maduro regime, including endemic economic mismanagement and public corruption at the expense of the Venezuelan people and their prosperity.” The sanctions specifically prohibit transactions related to the following: (i) “the purchase of debt owed to the Venezualan government, including accounts receivable;” (ii) debt pledged as collateral after May 21, including accounts receivable; and (iii) “the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Government of Venezuela of any equity interest in any entity in which the Government of Venezuela has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest.”

    The E.O., issued in conjunction with E.O. 13692, follows two prior E.O.s, which also targeted the Maduro regime—E.O. 13827, which prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions that involve digital currency issued by, for, or on behalf of the Venezuelan government, and E.O. 13808, which prohibits transactions related to new debt, bonds, and dividend payments in conjunction with the Venezuelan government and the state-owned oil company. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.). The E.O. took effect on May 21 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Executive Order Trump Venezuela Sanctions International Cryptocurrency

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  • OFAC adds additional Venezuelan government officials to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    On May 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Order 13692. OFAC’s additions to the list include four current or former Venezuelan government officials identified as persons who have “exploit[ed] their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities.” OFAC additionally blocked three companies and 14 properties located in Florida and New York owned by one of the recently added officials. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Venezuela Department of Treasury International

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