Several Venezuelan leaders recently came under fire for alleged criminal acts, although, contrary to initial impressions, the situation did not directly involve cryptocurrency usage.
“Maduro and his co-defendants are not alleged to have been involved with crypto, directly,” Ashok Ayyar, counsel at Experience Legal, told Cointelegraph.
A number of Venezuelan officials, including former president Maduro, faced a slew of charges from U.S. governing bodies, according to a March 26 statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). Despite the press release announcing the charges touting the Homeland Security Investigations’ ability to track cryptocurrency transactions, a close examination of the DoJ’s indictments reveals no direct mention of cryptocurrency or blockchain usage as part of criminal allegations against Maduro or his cohorts.
“The Indictment extends from 2014-2019 and involved funds flowing through US banks,” Joshua Garcia, partner at Blakemore Fallon legal practice, told Cointelegraph via email, adding:
“My sense is if Petro was involved it was only involved later in the scheme, and it‘s unlikely any US banks directly touched the crypto, so an intermediary like bitcoin might have been used at some point (pure speculation).”
Crypto is sometimes unnecessarily affiliated with criminal activity
Numerous headlines have affiliated cryptocurrency with criminal activity over the years, making the asset class an easy scapegoat for financial crimes, even where no correlation exists.
“There is no allegation in the indictments that the Petro or any other crypto was specifically involved,” Coinsource general counsel Arnold Spencer told Cointelegraph.
“The statement in the press release from HSI officials is not supported by the indictments (which is a violation of DOJ policy). Why do US officials try to vilify crypto when there is no allegation that crypto is involved in the alleged conspiracy?”