Maltese firm implicated in money laundering; Government and PN react

Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

The Nationalist Party in a statement said that the Government’s silence on the report which appeared on The Malta Independent on Sunday in which the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was implicated in an American investigation for having laundered money through an unnamed Maltese private investment firm, is “very worrying”. The Party said that now that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who is now in charge of the financial services, should shoulder the responsibility.

The PN said that such allegations should be taken seriously since they would taint the financial service sector’s reputation and Malta’s reputation.

The Party condemned Maduro’s administration saying that Venezuela is under a dictatorship with the elections held being a total sham.

The PN said that all of this should be taken into a context, and referred to the ex-chairman and owner of Pilatus Bank, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, who is currently out on bail on a $38 million bond, but faces a 125 jail term if found guilty.

“The Opposition is being irresponsible” – Government 

In a statement issued late on Tuesday evening, the Government called the Opposition “irresponsible”. The Government said that the Opposition expects the government to interfere in regulatory issues when it comes to financial services.

The Government said it trusted the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to act according to due process.

Background

The Miami Herald reported about a web of former Venezuelan officials and businessmen was charged in Miami with operating a $1.2 billion money-laundering racket. The racket was funded with stolen government money that was invested in real estate and other assets.

The defendants are accused of conspiring to commit money laundering and interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering enterprises according to the federal criminal complaint.

The complaint describes how the national oil company of Venezuela, PDVSA, was plundered to enrich officials, politicians and businessmen connected to the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez.

A confidential source approached Homeland Security Investigators – Miami Office regarding €78 million that the confidential source had received which had originated from a loan contract with the PDVSA. The Confidential Source was involved in a money laundering conspiracy and wanted to surrender the money and cooperate. The confidential source had agreed to wear a recording device and the federal probe Operation Money Flight was launched. The initial focus of the probe was to investigate €78 million however it revealed an international conspiracy to launder the PDVSA funds through Miami and several large scale international third-party money laundering organisations.

The 8 defendants and 9 conspirators:

Francisco Convit Guruceaga – A Venezuelan national. Convit along with CONSPIRATOR 2 is often referred to as a “Bolichico” or member of the “boliburgues”.

Jose Vincente Amparan Croquer a.k.a. “Chente” – A Venezuelan national and professional money launderer. Amparan is associated, along with CONSPIRATORS 5 and 6, with “European Company 1” in Spain, which is a money laundering front operating as a real estate investment firm. Amparan also maintains relationships with “European Financial Institution 1” in Malta, a private investment firm, which he uses to launder money.

Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui – A Venezuelan national and former Legal Counsel to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining.

Abraham Edgardo Ortega – former executive director of finance at Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

Gustavo Aldofo Hernandez Frieri – Colombian by birth, naturalised US citizen, professional money launderer who uses financial firms Global Security Advisors and Global Strategic Investments in Miami to launder money with false-mutual-fund investments. Arrested in Italy awaiting extradition.

Hugo Andre Ramalho Gios – Portugese money launderer associated with Amparan.

Matthias Krull – A German national and Panamanian resident. High level banker at a large Swiss bank specializing in Venezuelan clients. Krull was arrested at Miami International Airport.

Krull, 44, former banker at Julius Baer, manages “banking” activities for numerous Venezuelan officials and kleptocrats.

Marcelo Federico Gutierrez Acosta y Lara – A Uruguayan national Gutierrez is part of an ownership group of at least one U.S. bank that facilitates money laundering and is associated with Gustavo.

CONSPIRATORS 1-9 are some of the additional uncharged members of the conspiracy along with others. CONSPIRATORS 1-9 include other former PDVSA officials, individuals associated with Convit, reported members of the “boliburgues” and professional third-party money launderers.

Read USA v. Francisco Convit Guruceaga, et al.