Venezuela arrests 21 individuals in connection with a crypto-related oil corruption conspiracy

An investigation that began in October led to the arrest of ten officials and eleven businesspeople and the issuance of arrest warrants for eleven further persons.

According to the Reuters story, eleven detained persons were businesspeople, while the other ten were government officials.

The arrest warrants were issued due to an October 2022 investigation centered on PDVSA, the courts, and Sunacrip, the country’s crypto watchdog.

Attorney General Tarek Saab announced during a news briefing on the arrests: “This is one of the most lurid schemes of recent years, involving corrupt officials, corrupt businessmen, and young people – including so-called mafia women – who participated in corruption and money laundering,”

Saab did not share firm names or specifics regarding the scheme’s extent. Nevertheless, he asserted that Sunacrip was allotted oil cargoes for sale without administrative oversight, allowing receivers to acquire these cargoes without a documented payment.

The US administration discovered that Venezuelan oil exports were paid for using cryptocurrency in 2019, prompting the US to impose sanctions on Venezuela. Local news agencies claimed in February 2023 that two oil traders were charged with settling unlawful oil transactions with PDVSA using Tether (USDT) to avoid penalties and settlement payments.

Reuters also reported that Saab’s office had examined over 30 instances involving oil corruption, resulting in the conviction of around 200 individuals. In the last week, a few government officials and businesses were detained or removed from their jobs.

On March 20, anti-corruption prosecutors in Venezuela addressed the attorney general in a letter. They demanded an investigation of PDVSA executives, which resulted in the resignation of the company’s president on the same day. The president of Venezuela appointed Pedro Tellechea, the new head of PDVSA, to the position of oil minister two days later.

The nation has chosen Sunacrip, the National Superintendency of Crypto Assets and Related Activities, as the official agency to regulate cryptocurrencies. Local news media stated on March 18 that Joselit Ramirez, the head of Sunacrip, and numerous other government officials were detained for involvement in corruption schemes.

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