Four executives from an Texas-based oil company are under indictment in a case that focuses on Venezuela’s actions as part of the country’s decision to create its petro cryptocurrency. The executives, such as onetime CEO Jose Munoz Ballejos, maintain their innocence.
The website of Houston-based Cananea Petroleum Corp., which Mr. Ballejos headed, posted a statement late on Wednesday saying the company has been trying to obtain basic documents for more than a year. That has finally come, they said. “We assure you that we have retained the services of a private counsel and as a result we look forward to getting all of our records,” the statement said.
Mr. Ballejos, along with three of his subordinates — vice presidents Matias Orfila-Tedesco and José Juan Segura Manrique and vice president Sergio Montejo — were all charged on Wednesday with conspiring to commit money laundering in connection with selling oil to the cryptocurrency. The conspiracy was reportedly related to $180 million in unregistered bond sales, which allowed Venezuela to bypass western sanctions, according to court documents filed last week.
The exchange of Venezuelan bonds for dollars was a centerpiece of President Nicolas Maduro’s recent announcement that the country has raised $7 billion through the issuance of petro cryptocurrency. The value of that seems to have been decided by the rest of the financial world with just days before Mr. Maduro made the announcement. By Friday, half the petro coin had already been exchanged, according to people familiar with the transactions. But the Petro has not yet launched, since it must go through approval by the country’s central bank, which has also not yet approved it.
A version of Venezuela’s gold coin was issued in 1971 by the Marxist ideologue Daniel Ortega Díaz. The United States and the European Union have neither recognized nor lifted sanctions against the petro and specifically included the country in a separate sanction list that bans them from dealing with or providing energy to companies related to the petro.
The bank accounts that the executives who worked at Cananea Petroleum have been trying to get access to have yet to receive authorization from the court.
Additional reporting by Robert King.