Swiss banks should be scrutinised for dirty money, says Venezuelan opposition activist

The Swiss financial watchdog is currently investigating potential violations of anti-money laundering standards in connection with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) Keystone

Maria-Alejandra Aristeguieta, the Swiss representative of Venezuela’s opposition alliance Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), wants Switzerland to take a stronger stance against the Maduro regime and scrutinise its banks for money laundering offences. 

This content was published on February 22, 2018 - 18:48

Speaking to at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy organised by the NGO UN Watch on Tuesday, Aristeguieta said that the Swiss foreign ministry and the country’s parliamentarians “remain cautious” when called upon to denounce the regime of President Nicolás Maduro.   

“We find support from European, Canadian and Latin American parliamentarians, but not from Switzerland. Venezuela is no longer an important country for Switzerland,” she said. 

According to Aristeguieta, who is also the Swiss coordinator of the Iniciativa Por Venezuela group, Switzerland and other countries “need to recognise that money from corruption, extortion and drug trafficking in Venezuela is coming into their banks”. She suspects that politicians and other members of the government have hidden money in Switzerland and called for their accounts scrutinised to ensure there is no “dirty money”. She pointed out that the former attorney general Luisa Ortega, who was recently in Switzerland, had indicated that that Venezuelans linked to the scandalous Brazilian group Odebrecht have accounts in Switzerland. 

Money trail

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is currently investigating potential violations of anti-money laundering standards, including in connection with the Venezuelan state-owned oil group Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). The financial watchdog "is examining the extent to which Swiss institutions are involved and how the provisions of supervisory law have been enforced," a spokesperson told the Swiss Press Agency on Wednesday. 

A recent U.S. federal indictment accused five former Venezuelan officials of soliciting bribes to help vendors win favourable treatment from PDVSA and stashing the money in banks, including in Switzerland. According to the Tages-Anzeiger paper, two businessmen allegedly transferred $27 million in bribes to the Venezuelan officials into a Swiss bank account. The paper said the US indictment claimed that the $27 million was redistributed from the Swiss account to other local bank accounts. 

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