Asset managers accused of helping launder $1.2B in Venezuelan oil money

Swiss and Argentine managers conspired to launder funds from state-owned oil company, U.S. prosecutors allege

(Iulia Nemchinova MF, Getty Images)

MIAMI – Federal prosecutors charged two financial asset managers Tuesday, accusing them of taking part in a $1.2 billion international scheme to launder funds corruptly obtained from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company over a span of more than three years.

One of the suspects remains on the run from authorities, prosecutors said.

Swiss national Ralph Steinmann, 48, and Argentine national Luis Fernando Vuteff, 51, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Prosecutors allege that from December 2014 until at least August 2018, Steinmann and Vuteff laundered illicit proceeds from Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., also known as PDVSA, as part of a foreign currency exchange scheme involving bribery of Venezuelan officials.

The two are accused of using American as well as foreign bank accounts to launder the money and giving the officials kickbacks.

“Steinmann, Vuteff, and others discussed and agreed to create the sophisticated financial mechanisms and relationships required to launder more than $200 million related to the scheme as well as open accounts for or on behalf of at least two Venezuelan public officials to receive their bribe payments related to the scheme,” the news release said.

Police arrested Vuteff, who faces extradition from Switzerland, while Steinmann remains a fugitive, prosecutors said.

The two men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

About the Author:

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.