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Swiss banker given ten years over Venezuela money laundering

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Swiss banker given ten years over Venezuela money laundering
Matthias Krull is a former employee of Swiss private bank Julius Bär. File photo: AFP
09:01 CET+01:00
A former executive at the Swiss bank Julius Bär was sentenced Monday to ten years in prison for his role in laundering more than $1 billion looted from Venezuela's state oil company.

Matthias Krull, a 44-year-old German resident of Panama, pleaded guilty in August for his role in conspiracy to hide funds embezzled from Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, the principal source of income in the country now suffering economic collapse and massive inflation.

Under President Nicolas Maduro the country is facing dire shortages of basic goods like food and medicine, and skyrocketing inflation projected to soar over 1 million percent this year, reaching an unreal 10 million percent in 2019.

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Krull admitted to joining the conspiracy in 2016 and using Miami real estate as well as "sophisticated false-investment schemes" to hide the fact $1.2 billion had been stolen from PDVSA, according to the Justice Department.

US authorities arrested Krull in Miami in July, and he has indicated the scheme involves many more actors including "complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers," the Justice Department said.

Krull's co-conspirators include former PDVSA officials, and members of the Venezuelan elite, known as "boliburgues."

The Venezuelans indicted in the case are Francisco Convit, shareholder of energy company Derwick Associates; Carmelo Urdaneta, former petroleum and mining ministry legal advisor; Abraham Ortega, ex-PDVSA staffer; and José Vicente "Chente" Amparan, a businessman with links to Spain and Malta.

Ortega is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday.

A federal judge in Miami ordered Krull to pay a $50,000 fine and to forfeit $600,000, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Krull, who had been free on a $5 million bond, is due to enter a federal prison on April 29th, according to Bloomberg.

Swiss bank Julius Bär announced recently it was closing its operations in Panama and Peru in what it described as part of a strategic review of its business in Latin America.

The private bank hopes to maintain client relationships in those countries with bankers and other staff moved to Bahamas, Chile or Switzerland, a Julius Bär spokesperson was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

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