A judge in Andorra has charged 28 people, including former officials in Venezuela, with money laundering offenses over a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that plundered $2 billion from the Venezuelan state oil company between 2007 and 2012.
Investigating magistrate Canolic Mingorance issued the indictments on Thursday, wrapping up a five-year investigation into opaque deposits in the Banca Privada d’Andorra, or BPA, according to court documents.
Among those accused are nine people from Andorra, five from Spain and 14 Venezuelans, including former deputy ministers Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, as well as Luis Carlos de Leon-Perez, a former official at a state-run electric company in Caracas.
The judge places Diego Salazar, the high-powered cousin of Venezuela’s longtime oil czar Rafael Ramirez, at the top of the alleged scheme.
Ramirez, a close aide of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, was energy minister and ran Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, from 2004 to 2013, before becoming Venezuela’s envoy to the United Nations until last year, when he fell out with the country’s current leadership, resigned and went into hiding.
The Andorran judge says the group received illegal payments from companies, many of them from China, that were rewarded with contracts related to the oil industry. The Andorra-based bank’s management then hid the profits in shell companies in various countries, but the money was eventually made available in BPA accounts.