Venezuelan president implicated in US investigation of €160 million laundered through Malta
MIAMI – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been implicated in an American investigation for having laundered some €160 million through an unnamed Maltese private investment firm, according to a Homeland Security Investigations criminal complaint filed in the courts of Miami.
The criminal complaint alleges that Maduro’s stepsons helped launder US$1.2 billion in funds pilfered from Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, that were wired to an unnamed Maltese bank between late 2014 and early 2015.
The ruse was employed through a series of fake investment schemes including fraudulent bond issues and investment funds.
The specific deposits for Maduro’s three stepsons were among 10 wire transfers amounting to around €511 million that was wired to and laundered through Malta, according to the criminal complaint.
Although Maduro is not specifically named in the criminal complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office, there are distinct references to him in the document as ‘Venezuelan Official 2’ and to his stepsons receiving illicit money in Malta, according to multiple sources confirmed by several news sources including The Miami Herald, Bloomberg and The Chicago Tribune.
Maduro’s stepsons – Yosser Gavidia Flores, Walter Gavidia Flores and Yoswal Gavidia Flores – although also unnamed, and who are only described as los chamos [‘the stepsons’ in Spanish] are described by the sources as having received €160 million in funds that were skimmed from PDVSA through the manipulation of foreign exchange rates and which were wired to the Maltese bank in late 2014 and early 2015.
The eight defendants named in the complaint are accused of embezzling funds from Venezuela’s enormous oil income and exploiting its foreign-currency exchange system to amass illicit fortunes in Europe and the United States.
To leverage their profits, the defendants took advantage of their special access to the Venezuelan government’s foreign-currency exchange system, which offers a far superior rate of exchange than the normal market. That access was allegedly used to convert bolivars into dollars and euros as the defendants plundered the country’s oil riches.
In 2014, the Venezuelan government rate overvalued the bolivar by a factor of about 10, allowing massive returns for people able to use the government rate, the complaint said.