The authorities of Venezuela have reportedly urged local bitcoin miners to temporarily halt operations while inspecting a major corruption scheme that could have drained up to $20 billion.
People who are part of President Maduro’s inner cycle are suspected of orchestrating the crime that involved the national oil and gas company – Petróleos de Venezuela.
Pausing Crypto Activities During the Investigation
According to a Forbes coverage, large-scale BTC miners in Venezuela will have to turn off their machines due to an alleged corruption case that shocked the nation. It is estimated that between $3 billion and $20 billion are missing from Petróleos de Venezuela – a state-owned oil and natural gas company and the world’s fifth-largest exporter of hydrocarbons.
Investigators accused some of the leaders of President Maduro’s political movement (known as Chavismo) of having a hand in the scheme.
The Superintendencia Nacional de Criptoactivos (SUNACRIP) stands at the center of the process since it played a role in liquidating sales following the US sanctions against the company. It was also among the main institutions concerned with all types of energy usage and bitcoin mining.
The authorities have also required other cryptocurrency businesses, including exchanges and payment platforms with SUNACRIP licenses, to cease operations during the investigation.
Posts on social media platforms have recently revealed that the National Anticorruption Police had started inspecting domestic bitcoin mining firms to find any links between them and the corruption leaks in the energy sector. Law enforcement agents have also checked whether miners have the necessary authorization and up-to-date documentation to operate in the country.
It is worth noting that many of those licenses were issued by Joselit Ramírez (Chairman of SUNACRIP) and Rajiv Mosqueda (head of digital mining operations at SUNACRIP). Both men are under custody for allegedly participating in a scheme to steal from Venezuela’s energy affairs.
It remains unknown when Venezuelan crypto entities can resume operations and how long the investigation will last. Some believe President Maduro might restructure SUNACRIP or design a new regulatory agency from scratch.
The US DOJ Charges
According to the US Department of Justice, cryptocurrencies could have also played a role in other illegal activities in Venezuela in the past few years. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) claimed in 2020 that many high-ranked Venezuelan officials, including President Maduro, have acted as leaders of the notorious “Cartel of the Suns.”
The criminal organization abused locals and corrupted domestic institutions to facilitate the importation of massive quantities into the USA and employed digital assets to cover the transactions, the agency suggested. Attorney General William Barr – one of the US officials that announced the charges – shed more details:
“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.
Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government. The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the US banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”