Planeloads of Cash From Russia Have Been Shipped to Venezuela
04 Nov 2019

Hundreds of millions of dollars in cash has been shipped from Russia to Venezuela, providing a lifeline to the South American country as U.S. sanctions limit its access to the global financial system.

A total of $315 million of U.S. dollar and euro notes were sent in six separate shipments from Moscow to Caracas from May 2018 to April 2019, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg from ImportGenius, which compiled Russian customs records it obtains through private sources. The cash came from lenders run by the countries’ governments and went to Venezuela’s development bank, the records show.

While the money could be for any number of things — like Venezuela repatriating cash held overseas or dividends from a stake in a Moscow-based bank or revenue from sales of crude or gold — the complex logistical feat shows one of the ways President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has sought to skirt aggressive U.S. financial sanctions. As a consequence of the scrutiny, the central bank is conducting more transactions in cash, sometimes offering local clients access to euro bills.

ImportGenius’s data goes through April this year. That month, about $97 million in notes were sent in two loads from Moscow-based bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank to Venezuela’s Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, or Bandes. Evrofinance is a joint venture between Bandes and Russia’s state property management agency.

In January, $113 million worth of 100-euro bills were sent from state-controlled lender Gazprombank, which at the time had a stake in Evrofinance. The same entity shipped $50 million in U.S. dollar bills just two days earlier, and two separate shipments of unspecified currency totaling $55 million were made in May and July of last year.

Press officials for Evrofinance didn’t respond to requests for comment. Requests made to Bandes through Venezuela’s Finance Ministry were redirected to the Information Ministry, which didn’t respond.

By Patricia Laya, Bloomberg, 1 November 2019

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