July 12, 2022

DOJ charges two in connection with Venezuelan money laundering scheme

On July 12, 2022, an indictment was returned in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charging Ralph Steinmann and Luis Fernando Vuteff with conspiracy to commit money laundering.  According to the complaint, filed under seal on June 12, 2022, Steinmann, a Swiss national, and Vuteff, an Argentinian, were retained by co-conspirators to launder the proceeds of a bribery scheme that took place between 2014 and 2018.  As alleged, the co-conspirators entered into currency loan contracts with foreign government officials at Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), the Venezuelan government-controlled oil company.  The loan contracts allowed the conspirators to profit from the difference between the black market currency exchange rate and the official rate fixed by the government of Venezuela.  The crimes from which the laundered funds allegedly proceeded thus include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, misappropriation, and embezzlement.  The co-conspirators turned to Steinmann and Vuteff to launder the illicit profits through a web of entities and financial institutions, and ultimately a Spanish real estate firm associated with the defendants.  Altogether, the complaint points to more than $200 million of illegal funds processed by Steinmann and Vuteff in or through the United States.
Vuteff  has been arrested in Switzerland and is pending extradition.  Most of the co-conspirators, including Steinmann, remain fugitive, but some, including Venezuelan foreign officials Carmelo Antonio Urdaneta Aqui and Abraham Edgardo Ortega, have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in the Southern District of Florida.

DOJ press release | Complaint | Indictment