Bulgaria, US investigating transfers of millions of euro from Venezuela to Bulgarian bank accounts
A Bulgarian with power-of-attorney was involved in a scheme involving transfers of millions of euro from state-owned oil companies in Venezuela to bank accounts in Bulgaria, with sums then transferred to banks in other countries for what were likely false reasons, a news conference in Sofia was told on February 13.
The announcement followed talks at the Cabinet offices between Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, State Agency for National Security head Dimitar Georgiev and US ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin.
Tsatsarov told reporters that Bulgaria and the US were exchanging information regarding the bank transfers scheme.
He said that the transfers out of Bulgaria were for reasons stated as including buying food and funding a sports foundation, reasons that he doubted were true.
The Bulgarian who handled the transactions was not currently in the country.
Tsatsarov said that information had been received from the US about the bank transfers from Venezuela to Bulgaria.
On January 29, Washington announced sanctions on Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A, the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, blocking a reported $7 billion in assets.
Following the information received from the US, the identity of the bank and the individual involved in the scheme had been established, Tsatsarov said.
The name of the bank, reportedly a small bank owned by Bulgarians, was not disclosed. Media reports alleged that the Bulgarian who handled the accounts and made the transactions had the initials Ts. Ts.
The State Agency for National Security is checking other banks in Bulgaria for transfers from Venezuela.
Tsatsarov said that once there was a full picture of the transactions, a decision will be made on initiating a prosecution for money-laundering.
He said that steps had been taken to prevent further bank transfers. The bank itself was not suspected of illegal conduct.
“Our government and the EU countries are workking closely together to ensure that the wealth of the people of Venezuela is not stolen, and it has the necessary support to secure a peaceful and democratic future,” US ambassador Rubin told journalists.
Some days ago, there were media reports, based on allegations by Venezuela MP Carlos Paparoni, of an alleged scheme to transfer funds illegally from Venezuela to Bulgaria. The allegations are scheduled to be examined by a Bulgarian parliamentary committee.
State Agency for National Security head Georgiev said that the agency had received excellent co-operation from central Bulgarian National Bank.
(Main photo: Miroslav Sárička/freeimages.com)