An investigation has been launched into several Swiss banks following allegations that Venezuelan former officials were involved in a corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
The investigation follows sanctions placed last month against five Venezuelan former officials accused of soliciting bribes to help vendors win favorable treatment from PDVSA, as well as hiding extra profits in Switzerland.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is now probing whether the Swiss banks – which have not yet been identified publicly – adhered to laws designed to combat money laundering.
It is not the first time Swiss banks have been investigated: a 2015 U.S. indictment in the case said several accounts with Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) in Switzerland were subject to forfeiture.
Credit Suisse, a financial service company, stated Wednesday that it has implemented a number of regulations to prevent financial crime. According to its leading directors, the bank takes financial law very seriously and has even terminated some relationships.
In a statement, FINMA said: "FINMA is in contact with various Swiss banks in connection with the PDVSA case. The agency is checking to what extent Swiss banks are involved and if they fulfilled their regulatory obligations."
Swiss banks are the subject of a large-scale crackdown. This month alone, private bank PKB has been forced to surrender more than US$1.39 million. Investigators found that the majority of deposits were made by Brazilian counterparts of both Petrobras and Odebrecht.
In November, the Venezuelan government arrested six board members of Citgo, the PDVSA petroleum subsidiary in the United States, in connection with signing contracts with two U.S. equity fund companies to refinance US$4 million of the 2014-15 Venezuelan government debt. The contracts were made without the Venezuelan government's authority or knowledge, and used Citgo as collateral.
As part of the PDVSA case, approximately US$51 million of frozen assets were successfully transferred to the United States from Switzerland in October 2016. An additional US$67 million remains frozen by the Swiss government.
As the investigation continues, a report from Latin American newspaper El Pais shows that Switzerland's conservative banks were not the only ones used.
The report itemizing the bank statements of three former PDVSA directors – Luis Carlos Leon Perez, Francisco Antonio Jimenez, Eudomario Carruyo – shows they had also allegedly transferred US$60 million to offshore accounts in Andorra.
The bank statements have been added to a local investigation into Banca Privada of Andorra on money laundering allegations.