U.S. says Venezuela's Maduro used cryptocurrencies to conduct 'illicit criminal activity'

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that multiple Venezuelan leaders, including President Nicolas Maduro, leveraged political offices, financial systems and cryptocurrencies to conduct and conceal criminal activity for over 20 years. 

According to an indictment released today, the DOJ charged Maduro and 14 other Venezuelan officials with crimes related to narco-terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption. Officials alleged that Venezuelan officials sought to weaponize cocaine against the U.S. with the help of two members of the Guerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a guerilla group recognized as a terrorist organization. 

Maduro and colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC for the past two decades to move cocaine into American communities, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. The indictment considers these activities and Maduro's use of Venezuelan political offices to further them a "weaponization" of drug trafficking against the U.S. 

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs said today's indictment shows the agency's commitment to rooting out those who "exploit financial systems and hide behind cryptocurrency to further their illicit criminal activity."

The release does not detail how Maduro and others charged allegedly used crypto to cloak activities, nor does it name the Venezuelan oil-backed petro or other cryptocurrencies.

Still, Venezuela's superintendent of cryptocurrency, Joselit Ramirez Camacho, is facing separate charges from the Southern District of New York. The office alleges that Camacho engaged in a series of crimes in an attempted evasion of sanctions that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had placed on Maduro and others. The Southern District of New York has also charged other leaders for attempts to evade sanctions, including Venezuela's vice president for the economy.