20 Mar 2019
The United States on Tuesday blacklisted a Venezuelan mining company and its president for their purported roles in financing the government of Nicolas Maduro and contributing to environmental degradation and harsh working environments for miners.
Under US sanctions law, financial institutions must now block assets linked to CVG Compania General de Mineria de Venezuela (Minerven), which, as the country’s sole processor of gold, buys the precious metal from miners at a low cost before melting it down into bars and shipping them to the nation’s central bank, according to a Treasury Department statement.
Maduro and his associates have exploited the arrangement to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in value out of the country’s depreciating currency and into gold and foreign currencies, the department said. That practice has given Maduro’s contested government “a lifeline to cling to power” amid hyperinflation, according to the statement, which separately cited Minerven’s alleged environmental abuses as justification for the sanctions.
The blacklisting of Minerven and its president, Adrian Antonio Perdomo Mata, follows last week’s designation of Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a Moscow-based commercial bank that is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) accused the Russian bank of financing the Venezuelan cryptocurrency “Petro,” as part of a scheme to help the Venezuelan government to circumvent American sanctions. Evrofinance Mosnarbank is part-owned by two previously blacklisted Russian financial institutions: Gazprombank and VTB Bank, the agency said.
Venezuela remains in a state of crisis amid blackouts and protests as backers of National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó continue to claim that he is the rightful president of the country following contested elections that favored Maduro last year.
“We will aggressively pursue those involved with Maduro’s reckless illicit gold trade, which is contributing to this financial, humanitarian and environmental crisis,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement Tuesday.
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