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Spain Investigates Venezuela Ex-Officials For Money Laundering

File photo, taken on July 25, 2014, of an image of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decorated with religious images, seen inside a small chapel at the 23 de Enero neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela. Fernando Llano / AP

Government and police sources have told Spanish newspaper El Mundo that about half a dozen former high-ranking officials in the late Hugo Chavez's socialist government were among those allegedly involved in a money-laundering scheme at the heart of a growing scandal involving a European bank.

Sources at an anti-laundering Spanish unit called SEPBLAC told "El Mundo" that at least three former deputy ministers, the former intelligence chief and oil industry executives were involved in a money laundering scheme at the Bank of Andorra, a private bank in the small European country of Andorra. These include former deputy energy minister Nervis Gerardo Villalobos and former intelligence vice minister Alcides Rondón. The men allegedly laundered money they received from kickbacks.

Last week the U.S. Treasury department named the Andorra bank a "primary money-laundering concern," and accused the bank managers of accepting "...exorbitant commissions to process transactions related to Venezuelan third–party money launderers. This activity involved the development of shell companies and complex financial products to siphon off funds from Venezuela's public oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)." The bank processed approximately $2 billion in transactions related to this money laundering scheme, according to the U.S. Treasury.

The bank's president has been arrested, and government-appointed administrators in the Spanish unit of the bank have suspended operations and filed for bankruptcy protection.


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