WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced a new tranche of sanctions against seven Venezuelan individuals and two dozen business entities over an alleged currency scheme that resulted in $2.4 billion in embezzled or laundered government funds.
The U.S. targeted Globovision, Venezuela's largest privately-owned broadcaster, which is controlled by Raúl Antonio Gorrín Belisario.
Gorrín is accused of conspiring with former Venezuelan National Treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén to bribe the country's treasury in order to carry out illegal foreign exchange operations. Five other individuals and more than 20 entities other than Globovision are alleged to have been involved in the scheme.
“Our actions against this corrupt currency exchange network expose yet another deplorable practice that Venezuela regime insiders have used to benefit themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
"The United States remains committed to holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline and will continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to support the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy," he added.
Prosecutors in Miami alleged in an indictment late last year that Gorrín bribed Venezuelan officials to buy dollars at a distorted exchange rate. He then allegedly resold the currency on the black market at a significant profit.
The Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance against Venezuela and its president, Nicolás Maduro, doling out sanctions against members of his inner circle.
U.S. officials have urged Central American allies to increase pressure on Maduro in the midst of deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
Maduro has sought to tighten his grip on power in Venezuela, despite reports that Venezuelans are starving and dealing with severe poverty. He won reelection in 2018 amid concerns of voter intimidation and low turnout.