Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Ex-Swiss banker admits guilt in Venezuelan scam

AFP, MIAMI

A former Swiss bank manager pleaded guilty in a US court on Wednesday for his role in a US$1.2 billion money laundering scheme involving Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), the US Department of Justice announced.

Matthias Krull, 44, a German national and Panamanian resident, was one of a ring of conspirators and he admitted the scam began in late 2014 with “a currency exchange scheme that was designed to embezzle about US$600 million from PDVSA,” the department said in a statement.

PDVSA was the crown jewel of Venezuela’s imploding economy and remains virtually the only source of hard currency for the embattled government, but it has also made the company a target of theft and graft.

The department said the stolen funds were “obtained through bribery and fraud.”

The conspiracy in 2015 doubled to US$1.2 billion in funds embezzled from PDVSA.

Krull became involved in 2016 when another ring member asked him to help launder the proceeds.

They used Florida real estate and “sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal that the US$1.2 billion was in fact embezzled from PDVSA,” the statement said.

He pleaded guilty in a Florida court to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is to be sentenced on Oct. 29.

Krull’s co-conspirators “include former PDVSA officials, professional third-party money launderers and members of the Venezuelan elite.”

US authorities arrested Krull in Miami last month, while Gustavo Hernandez Frieri, a Colombian, was arrested in Italy and is awaiting extradition.

The Venezuelans indicted in the case are Francisco Convit, shareholder of energy company Derwick Associates; Carmelo Urdaneta, a former legal adviser to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining; Abraham Ortega, a former PDVSA staffer; and Jose Vicente Amparan, a businessman and “professional money launderer.”

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