Nervis Villalobos Cárdenas, former Vice-Minister of Electric Energy of Venezuela, is involved in a corruption scandal that extends beyond the borders of his country.
The authorities of the Principality of Liechtenstein, one of the world’s smallest states located in Central Europe, have opened an investigation to determine whether Villalobos used the country’s financial system to launder money from corruption schemes in Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
This investigation is in addition to 15 others faced by the former Venezuelan official in Spain, Venezuela, Andorra, the United States, Portugal and Switzerland.
The Liechtenstein Investigation
This investigation in Liechtenstein was initiated following the indictment made by the U.S. Southern District Court of Texas, United States, in August 2017. According to this indictment, Villalobos would have collaborated in the establishment and facilitation of an illicit enrichment scheme using funds from the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
In view of this situation, the Liechtenstein Ministry of Justice requested the collaboration of the United States to obtain information related to these operations.
The Liechtenstein authorities discovered the existence of a bank account in the Volksbank AG, opened in February 2013, in which Villalobos appears as financial beneficiary and sole signatory. At the end of that same year, the company Oxeon Trade & Investment LTD received one million dollars in that account from a bank account in Switzerland.
This transaction caught the attention of the authorities, who began to investigate the origin of the funds.
A transaction made on August 11, 2011 in the amount of US$3.2 million was found in the transfer register. This transfer was sent by a US-based consulting firm, allegedly linked to Villalobos, to the same bank account in Switzerland.
In March 2009, this consulting firm had received US$4 million from an unknown holder of an account at International Union Bank in the United States. These findings led to the suspicion that the former official was involved in money laundering activities.
Given these indications, Liechtenstein authorities requested the bank record of the account owner at the International Union Bank in order to continue the investigation and determine whether the funds were derived from illicit activities.
According to the Liechtenstein Ministry of Justice, Switzerland has been the epicenter of Villalobos’ operations to facilitate the corruption scheme and hide bribe payments by contractors seeking priority in the payment of outstanding PDVSA invoices.
Investigations in Europe and the United States
The investigation in Liechtenstein is in addition to 15 others faced by Nervis Villalobos Cárdenas in different countries. In Spain, he is being investigated for money laundering in five cases. In Venezuela, he also faces five accusations of corruption. In Andorra, there are two investigations against him. In the United States, Portugal and Switzerland, he is being investigated in one case in each country.
According to Transparencia Venezuela, the amount of money involved in ten of the sixteen corruption cases in which Villalobos is implicated is known. This sum amounts to more than five billion dollars. It is important to note that Switzerland has frozen at least 140 million francs related to a money laundering scheme originating from PDVSA, in which Villalobos is presumed to be involved.
Nervis Villalobos Cárdenas, Venezuela’s former vice-minister of Electric Energy, is at the center of a multi-country corruption scandal. Investigations in Spain, Venezuela, Andorra, the United States, Portugal, Switzerland and Liechtenstein reveal the alleged participation of the former official in money laundering schemes originating from PDVSA.
The sum of more than five billion dollars involved in these corruption schemes highlights the magnitude of the accusations against Villalobos. Authorities continue to work to clarify the facts and bring to justice those responsible for these illicit acts.