Transactions with accounts Venezuelans have become complicated for Florida banks due to the sanctions imposed by the United States government on the regime of Nicolás Maduro in an attempt to force his departure from power and restore democracy in Venezuela.
“Because of the links we have in South Florida with Venezuela, there are a lot of movement and it became very complicated because the bank has to do a high due diligence in its Venezuelan base to know who they are and not run afoul of sanctions,” said Florida International Bankers Association (FIBA) President and CEO David Schwartz.
El case of Venezuela , the same as in 2019, will be one of the main topics of the FIBA Anti-Money Laundering and Compliance Conference which will take place from March 16 to 18 in Miami, with the participation of some 1,500 bankers from the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on officials of the Maduro regime and businessmen related to Chavismo who face accusations of money laundering, drug trafficking, corruption or violation of human rights. Also to companies such as the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).
In Florida, where most of the Venezuelan community in the United States is concentrated, banks have been forced to spend much more time verify business-related bank transactions and with people who maintain their businesses in the South American country or send remittances to their relatives.
Added to this was the fact that there were many banks that were not in Florida that “immediately” said no.or wanted to carry out any transaction in which Venezuela was involved.
"That had a dramatic effect on these operations because those banks did not want to take any risk and the easiest thing was to deny all operations," the banker said in an interview with el Nuevo Herald.
The situation got even more complicated in August 2019 when the White House issued an executive order related to people linked to the Venezuelan regime or who were its employees.
"That complicated banking life in a tremendous way because it was a fairly broad definition of jobs, it can be a secretary, a nurse in a government hospital or a musician in the Venezuelan philharmonic orchestra," Schwartz explained.
People came to banks to withdraw money from their accounts or make a transfer and they were notified that due to that executive order the operations could not be processed.
A bank can be fined up to $1 million for each transaction that is considered a criminal offense and a fine of twice the amount of the transaction up to a little more than $1 million if it is classified as a civil infraction.
To clear up the complicated picture, Florida International Banking began meeting with OFAC officials because "this because it involved blocking a lot of accounts and freezing them."
OFAC gradually issued general licenses that give greater clarity to the subject and describe exactly who you can work with, but the issue still needs to be further specified and for this reason officials from that agency will participate in the conference.
“While these sanctions exist, the life of banks is complicated because they have to operate with great caution when it comes to operations with Venezuela because it is not just a transaction with PDVSA or another government company. It must be taken into account that they use figureheads, companies off shore with third parties and go through other banks outside the US that obscures the origin of the operation,” explained Schwartz.
Another of the topics of the FIBA conference will be human trafficking, a crime that generates $150,200 billion a year, according to the Financial Flow of Human Trafficking report, recently published by the Financial Action Task Force ("FATF") and the Asia/Pacific Regional Group on Money Laundering.
In order for these dollars to be legitimized, they will have to be “laundered” and inserted into the economy through some type of financial institution and for this reason banks play a fundamental role in helping to identify the crime, the potential victims and those who are victimizing them. .
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Note of sonia osorio for El Nuevo Herald
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