Bulgaria investigates bank accounts linked to Venezuelan oil cash

Authorities in Bulgaria have launched an investigation into the possibility that banks in the country have been used to launder millions of euros transferred from the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, currently under international sanctions. The investigation follows a tip-off from US officials.

“Our government is working very closely with Bulgaria and other countries in the EU to ensure that the wealth of the people of Venezuela is not stolen,” said the US Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin.

Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said on February 13 that the country’s State Security Agency has frozen one trust account opened by a Bulgarian with lawyer with multiple citizenships, and was preparing to check with all other Bulgarian banks for similar transfers.

“Some of the money has already been transferred on to banks outside Bulgaria. These transfers were made with justifications including the funding of a sports federation in Venezuela, food purchases and other activities that obviously have nothing to do with reality,” Mr Tsatsarov added.

“All measures have been taken so that the funds that are still in the accounts, which are not in small amounts, will be fully under our control and will not leave the country on false grounds.”

Mr Tsatsarov did not name the bank at which the accounts were held, but pointed out that the bank itself was not under any suspicion.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido assumed presidency of the country three weeks ago, arguing that Nicolas Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham. The US and most Western countries, including Bulgaria, have recognised Mr Guaido as the legitimate head of state, but Mr Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China and control of state institutions.