Matthias Krull, a former Swiss bank executive, pleaded guilty today to his involvement in a $1.2 billion money laundering operation involving PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. Krull entered his plea at a Miami federal court today.
Krull was arrested in late July alongside “a web of former Venezuelan officials” after United States authorities accused them of running a money laundering scheme through PDVSA. The authorities allege that the accused conspired beginning in December 2014 to embezzle $600 billion from PDVSA, but by May of 2015 the size of their operation had grown to $1.2 billion.
Krull acknowledged joining the conspiracy in 2016. Officials say Krull and others used Miami real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal the embezzled money.
Throughout the Chavez and Maduro years, PDVSA has been plagued by corruption and mismanagement at its highest level. Regime officials connected to the company are under investigation in two continents for embezzling funds through the company and other financial crimes.
Krull’s sentencing is scheduled for October 29.
Aftershock Puts Venezuelans on Edge Following Yesterday’s Quake
A 5.7 magnitude aftershock rattled edgy Venezuelans today following yesterday’s Yaguaraparo earthquake. The aftershock occurred at approximately 9:27 AM local time, also near the epicenter of yesterday’s quake but at a much shallower depth. The aftershock was felt as far away as Caracas, and does not appear to have caused any damage.
Yesterday’s earthquake caused moderate damage in Ciudad Guayana, which is located some 250 kilometers south of the epicenter.
The images below show cracks on columns and other parts of a building in Ciudad Guyana:
Cracks on a beach in Ciudad Guayana:
The video below shows the window panes on buildings in what appears to be a commercial strip mall shaking noticeably during yesterday’s earthquake:
Top Five Floors of Tower of David Leaning Precariously
In Caracas, the earthquake caused the top five floors of the Tower of David to lean precariously over the streets below. The floors are leaning at an angle of approximately 25 degrees.
Below, images of the leaning floors atop the building:
The Tower of David is a 45-storey unfinished office building located in central Caracas. Originally scheduled to be completed in 1994, construction at the site has been dormant since that year.
Minister of the Interior Nestor Reverol has confirmed the damage to the building, saying:
We want to inform that here in Caracas, in the La Candelaria parish, the old Confianzas Financial Centre, known as the Tower of David, a 45-storey abandoned building… is leaning by 25 degrees at its top five floors.
Brigadier General Randy Rodriguez, the head of Venezuela’s Civil Protection, said today that despite the noticeable leaning, the affected floors are not at the risk of collapse.
It is not clear at this time what the authorities intend to do with the building.
Regime: 43 Now Implicated in Drone Attack
Attorney General Tarek William Saab said today that the number of suspects in the August 4 drone attack against Maduro has risen to 43, from the 34 suspects that had been announced previously.
Saab said that 25 of the suspects have already appeared in court, and that arrest warrants have been issued for 18 others. He also said that more properties, namely homes and offices, have yet to be searched in connection to the case.
The Maduro regime maintains that the drone attack was carried out at the behest of a vast network of conspirators, including Venezuelans abroad, and that it was directed by the Colombian government.
Regime Publishes New Prices for 25 Food Staples
The Maduro regime published a new set of prices today for 25 basic food staples, including beef, butter, carrots, beans and flour. The prices determine what each of the 25 items must be sold at in every establishment in the country.
Below, a selection of some of the new prices:
- Can of tuna (170 grams): Bs.S. 72.00
- Beef (1 kilogram): Bs.S. 90.00
- Butter (500 grams): Bs.S. 42.00
- Black beans (1 kilogram): Bs.S. 72.00
- Ground coffee (500 grams): Bs.S. 60.00
- Salt (1 kilogram): Bs.S. 13.00
Starting on September 1, Venezuelan workers earning the minimum monthly salary will bring home Bs.S. 1,800 each month.
The Maduro regime, and that of Chavez before him, set strict limits on the prices of basic food items in an attempt to keep them affordable for Venezuelans. Rather than helping Venezuelans afford these items, these price limits help to create scarcity by encouraging hoarding and reselling, and harm both producers and retailers by forcing them to sell the products at a loss. Given the severity of the country’s inflationary crisis, the harms caused by these regulations make themselves felt more intensely with each passing day.
Authorities Arrest Supermarket Manager for Ignoring Price Limits
Early this afternoon, officers with the Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales [Special Actions Force] (FAES) arrested the manager of the Plan Suarez supermarket located in the El Cafetal neighbourhood of Caracas.
El Nacional is reporting that the man was arrested for raising the prices of some items in the supermarket above those set by the regime.
In the video below, the manager of the supermarket is escorted off the premises in handcuffs by the police:
Venezuela’s economic turmoil has put businesses in a difficult position: either obey regime-set prices and sell products at increasingly large losses, or ignore them and face arrest.
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