Legal battle over Venezuela’s looted billions heats up

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For David Scam. 12 Junio 2020

MIAMI – As Venezuela slides deeper into political chaos and financial ruin, billions of dollars of public assets looted by corrupt government officials and their cronies, are being held by governments around the world, including the Trump administration, gathering dust.

Now, Venezuela’s U.S.-backed government is gearing up efforts to try and recover that money to help its impoverished population battle the coronavirus pandemic, on top of an already calamitous public health crisis.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is fighting in court to keep control of hundreds of millions of dollars of those ill-gotten gains, part of a treasure chest of forfeited assets from around the world.

“There is a moral imperative to look closely at this issue. The need in Venezuela is growing and the scale of the corruption is industrial,” said Michael Camilleri, who is writing a report on the forfeiture funds for the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes democracy in Latin America.

He estimated that more than $1 billion in looted money is currently held in the United States, either in frozen banks accounts or being held by in government forfeiture funds. As much as $24 billion may be held in accounts globally, mostly in Europe.

“Even if you could recover a small fraction of this money you would be looking at a far greater sum than the total humanitarian assistance that the international community has been able to muster up for Venezuela,” Camilleri said.

U.S. officials point out that Trump administration has provided more than $610 million since 2017 to provide emergency humanitarian assistance in Venezuela, including to United Nations agencies, for emergency food, health, and nutrition.

“The United States has long been committed to finding a solution to the man-made crisis in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement announcing the administration’s latest effort to put pressure on the outlaw regime of Nicolas Maduro.

Piles of cash

But U.S. officials have so far appeared to turn a blind eye to the mounting pile of cash resulting from the federal prosecution of a growing list of high profile cases of Venezuelans accused of bribery and money laundering. In the process, U.S. authorities ha

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