Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tapped crypto to conceal transactions related to illicit drug-running, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged in an indictment Thursday.
The sweeping charges against Maduro and 14 other Venezuelan officials are primarily targeted at stopping an alleged multibillion-dollar cocaine trafficking ring the DOJ claimed wreaked havoc on American communities for over 20 years. It allegedly involved drug runners, Colombian revolutionaries and narco-terrorism.
Venezuela’s crypto superintendent, Joselit Ramirez Camacho, 33, was also indicted in a separate action in the Southern District of New York.
In the indictment’s accompanying press release, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs said the conspiracy used crypto to cloak their alleged crimes.
“Today’s announcement highlights HSI’s global reach and commitment to aggressively identify, target and investigate individuals who violate U.S. laws, exploit financial systems and hide behind cryptocurrency to further their illicit criminal activity. Let this indictment be a reminder that no one is above the law - not even powerful political officials.”
The release does not name what cryptocurrency is involved. However, Venezuela notably maintains an oil-backed cryptocurrency called the petro. That project is regulated by Venezuela’s National Superintendent for Cryptoassets and Related Activities, Sunacrip.
Camacho is Sunacrip’s head.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.
Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.