WASHINGTON, USA – Two financial asset managers have been charged with money laundering as part of a $1.2 billion international scheme to launder funds corruptly obtained from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
According to the indictment returned Tuesday, July 12, in the Southern District of Florida, Ralph Steinmann, 48, of Switzerland, and Luis Fernando Vuteff, 51, of Argentina, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The court documents, which include a criminal complaint charging Steinmann and Vuteff on June 12, allege that beginning in or around December 2014 and continuing until at least August 2018, Steinmann and Vuteff conspired with others to launder the proceeds of an illegal bribery scheme using the US financial system as well as various bank accounts located abroad. The conspirators laundered the illicit proceeds in connection with a corrupt foreign currency exchange scheme involving bribery of Venezuelan officials.
Steinmann, Vuteff, and others allegedly discussed and agreed to create the sophisticated financial mechanisms and relationships required to launder more than $200 million related to the scheme as well as open accounts for or on behalf of at least two Venezuelan public officials to receive their bribe payments related to the scheme.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Vuteff has been arrested and is pending extradition from Switzerland. Steinmann remains a fugitive from the United States.
Assistant attorney-general Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, US attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami office made the announcement.
HSI Miami is investigating the case. This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s Operation Money Flight, a partnership between and among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
Trial attorney Paul A. Hayden of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and assistant US attorney Kurt K. Lunkenheimer for the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and Swiss law enforcement authorities are providing substantial assistance in this matter.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.