U.S. charges two financiers with money laundering in PDVSA bribery scheme

Two asset managers from Switzerland and Argentina have been charged in an alleged $1.2 billion Venezuelan money laundering scheme, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

An indictment alleges that the asset managers, Ralph Steinmann, 48, of Switzerland and Luis Fernando Vuteff, 51, of Argentina, from 2014 to 2018 laundered proceeds from an illegal bribery scheme that corruptly obtained funds from Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, the department said in a statement.

According to court documents, Steinmann and Vuteff laundered proceeds from a foreign currency exchange scheme involving bribery of Venezuelan officials, the department said.

The pair made arrangements to launder more than $200 million and open accounts for at least two Venezuelan officials to receive bribes.

Steinmann and Vuteff face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering if convicted. Vuteff has been arrested and is pending extradition from Switzerland. Steinmann remains at large.