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Swiss, Argentinian Nationals Accused of Laundering $1.2 B from Venezuelan Oil Company

Petróleo Ruso

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Two financial asset managers were charged in a South Florida court with an alleged $1.2 billion “money laundering” offense, funds “corruptly obtained” from state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

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

The court documents, which include a criminal complaint against Steinmann and Vuteff, allege that beginning in or about December 2014 and continuing at least through August 2018, the two “conspired with others to launder proceeds through an illegal bribery scheme using the U.S. financial system,” as well as various bank accounts located offshore.

The conspirators laundered illicit proceeds in connection with a corrupt foreign currency exchange scheme involving the bribery of Venezuelan officials, the U.S. Department of Justice says in a statement.

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 to open accounts for or on behalf of at least two Venezuelan public officials to 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 pending extradition from Switzerland to the United States, while Steinmann remains a fugitive from US justice.

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