Two men accused in the US of laundering $1.2 billion from PDVSA

PDVSA Switzerland
Photo: Archive

Two financial asset managers were charged in a South Florida court with an alleged crime of “money laundering” worth $1.2 billion, funds “corruptly obtained” from the state oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), the United States Department of Justice reported on Tuesday.

Ralph Steinmann, 48, of Switzerland, and Luis Fernando Vuteff, 51, of Argentina, are each charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering” in an international scheme to launder funds obtained from illicit way.

The court documents, which include a criminal complaint against Steinmann and Vuteff, allege that beginning in or around December 2014 and continuing through at least August 2018, the two “conspired with others to launder proceeds through a bribery scheme.” illegally using the US financial system”, as well as several bank accounts abroad.

The conspirators laundered illicit proceeds in connection with a corrupt foreign currency exchange scheme that involved the bribery of Venezuelan officials, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

They could face a sentence of 20 years in prison.

Steinmann, Vuteff and others allegedly agreed to create the “sophisticated financial mechanisms” and relationships necessary to launder more than $200 million related to the scheme, as well as open accounts for at least two Venezuelan officials where they would receive their bribe payments.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy to commit money laundering.”

Vuteff was arrested and is awaiting extradition from Switzerland to the United States, while Steinmann remains a fugitive from US justice.

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