Switzerland and Argentina accused of $1.2 billion Venezuelan money laundering scheme


Two financial asset managers, Swiss citizen Ralph Steinmann and Argentinian citizen Luis Fernando Vuteff, have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Oil production

According to the indictment released in the Southern District of Florida, the defendants were part of a $1.2 billion international scheme to launder corruptly obtained funds from the Venezuelan state energy company and state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

The currency exchange scheme was designed to divert approximately $600 million from PDVSA, obtained through bribery and fraud, and the defendants’ efforts to launder some of the proceeds of this scheme.

In May 2015, the plot reportedly doubled to $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA. PDVSA is Venezuela’s main source of income and currency (namely US dollars and Euros).

Court documents allege that the criminal activity began in December 2014 and continued until at least August 2018 and included an illegal bribery scheme using the US financial system as well as various bank accounts located overseas in order to launder illicit proceeds linked to corrupt foreign currency. trading system involving the corruption of Venezuelan officials.

Steinmann, Vuteff and others plotted a sophisticated operation to launder more than $200 million related to the scheme as well as accounts opened for or on behalf of at least two Venezuelan public officials to receive their related kickbacks to the scheme.

The federal district court has yet to determine a sentence but, if charged, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to launder money.

Vuteff has already been arrested and is awaiting extradition from Switzerland. Steinmann remains a fugitive from the United States.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s Operation Money Flight, a partnership between and among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Operation Money Flight brought many other foreign nationals to justice in the United States for participating in the billion dollar money laundering scheme.

In 2018, German national Matthias Krull and Colombian national Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez Frieri were charged in connection with a criminal complaint of conspiracy to launder money.

The lawsuit also charged Francisco Convit Guruceaga, 40; José Vincente Amparan Croquer, alias “Chente”, 44 years old; Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, 44; and Abraham Eduardo Ortega, 51, all Venezuelan nationals; and Hugo Andre Ramalho Gois, 39, Portuguese national, and Marcelo Federico Gutierrez Acosta y Lara, 40, Uruguayan national, for their alleged participation in the scheme.

These defendants are still at large. Krull was arrested last night in Miami and made his first appearance before US Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes in Miami. Krull is due to have a remand hearing on July 30 and a preliminary hearing on August 8. Frieri was arrested today in Sicily, Italy, and faces extradition proceedings.

The complaint alleges that surrounding and supporting these fake investment laundering schemes are complicit fund managers, brokerage firms, banks, and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a ring of money launderers. professional money.

Suspected conspirators include former PDVSA officials, professional money launderers and members of the Venezuelan elite, sometimes referred to as “boliburges”.

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