Washington, US | April 19
F inance ministers from several Latin American nations as well as the U.S. and Europe have agreed to work jointly to locate and seize the proceeds arising from corruption by Venezuelan government insiders, two U.S. Treasury officials said.
The decision came at a Washington meeting earlier in the day attended by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at which the finance officials from 16 nations also discussed ways to provide swift economic and humanitarian assistance to Venezuela, including substantial debt relief, in the event socialist President Nicolas Maduro is replaced by a government they deem more legitimate and committed to economic reform.
The two officials agreed to talk about the meeting only if not quoted by name because the discussions were to be private. Officials from France, Germany, Britain, Japan and all major Latin American nations participated in the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund’s spring meetings.
The IMF this week forecast Venezuela’s economy will shrink 15 percent in 2018, extending for a fifth year a recession that already surpassed in size the U.S. Great Depression. Inflation for the year is expected to soar to almost 14,000 percent.
“Concrete actions are necessary to restrict the ability of corrupt Venezuelan officials and their support networks from abusing the international financial system,” Mnuchin said in a statement after the meeting that provided few details on actions that were agreed on.
The two officials said a joint presentation by Colombia and the U.S. described how top Venezuelan officials operating through front companies siphoned off as much as 70 percent of funding for Maduro’s hallmark program to alleviate hunger through the use of no-bid contracts, overbilling and the resale at blackmarket prices of food boxes assembled in Mexico. The presentation mapped in detail one network run out of Hong Kong and involving 30 shell companies spread across four continents.