The Malta Independent 16 June 2019, Sunday

Swiss banker pleads guilty to Venezuela-Malta money laundering charges

Thursday, 23 August 2018, 10:55 Last update: about 11 months ago

The former managing director and vice chairman of a Swiss bank pleaded guilty on Wednesday for his role in a billion-dollar international scheme to launder funds embezzled from Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

€511 million of those funds were allegedly laundered through Malta, according to US investigators.  They also allege a Malta-based investment firm, Portmann International made upwards of €20 million in fees, at a four per cent rate, for laundering the funds, which have been linked to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, which this newsroom had originally exposed earlier this month.


44-year-old Matthias Krull, a German national and Panamanian resident, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on 29 October by US District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida, who has accepted his plea.

As part of his plea, Krull admitted that in his position with the Swiss bank, he attracted private clients, particularly clients from Venezuela, to the bank.  In this role, Krull’s clients included Francisco Convit Guruceaga, who was indicted on money laundering charges on 16 August.  Krull’s clients also included three unnamed conspirators described in the 16 August indictment. 

Krull admitted that the conspiracy began in December 2014 with a currency exchange scheme that was designed to embezzle around $600 million from PDVSA, obtained through bribery and fraud, and the conspirators’ efforts to launder a portion of the proceeds of that scheme.  By May 2015, the conspiracy had doubled in amount to $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA.  PDVSA is Venezuela’s primary source of income and foreign currency (namely, U.S. Dollars and Euros). 

Krull joined the conspiracy in or around 2016, he admitted, when a co-conspirator contacted him to launder the proceeds of a PDVSA foreign-exchange embezzlement scheme. 

Ultimately, Krull joined the conspiracy to launder $1.2 billion worth of funds that were embezzled from PDVSA, he admitted.  Krull and members of the money laundering conspiracy used Miami, Florida real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal that the $1.2 billion was in fact embezzled from PDVSA.  Krull also admitted that surrounding and supporting these false-investment laundering schemes are complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers. 

Krull’s co-conspirators indicted on 16 August include former PDVSA officials, professional third-party money launderers, and members of the Venezuelan elite, sometimes known as “boliburgués.”

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