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US sanctions Venezuelans including TV owner over currency scheme

AFP  |  Washington 

The imposed sanctions Tuesday on seven Venezuelans including the owner of network Globovision for allegedly plundering billions of dollars from the crisis-hit country through black-market currency exchanges.

Days before is to be sworn in for a new term after a controversial re-election, vowed to target methods employed by the government "to steal from its people".

"Our actions against this expose yet another deplorable practice that regime insiders have used to benefit themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people," Mnuchin said in a statement.

"The remains committed to holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline, and will continue to use to support the Venezuelan people's efforts to restore their democracy."

According to the Treasury Department, the sanctioned Venezuelans -- faced with a shortfall in their bolivar currency needed to fund government projects -- went to black-market exchange houses to sell dollars at a higher than official rate.

The scheme generated more than USD 2.4 billion in proceeds, which went to government-approved exchange houses and ultimately to the officials themselves, who stashed the money in US and European and investments, the Treasury Department said.

The Treasury Department froze all property and assets of the sanctioned Venezuelans inside the United States, with penalties for financial transactions involving them.

It granted an exemption for Globovision to maintain operations for at least one year.

Globovision was the last Venezuelan network aligned with the opposition until its 2013 buyout by investors sympathetic to Maduro and his late predecessor

Raul Gorrin Belisario, the owner of Globovision, has already been charged in a for allegedly bribing Venezuelan officials and embezzling funds totalling more than USD 1 billion.

Also freshly sanctioned was Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen, who served as Venezuela's from 2011 to 2013.

has faced a mounting economic crisis as prices sag for its and Maduro's socialist government struggles to ensure supply of medicine and basic foods.

Inflation is expected to soar to 10 million percent in 2019, according to the

More than 2.3 million people have fled since 2015, with the expecting the number to surpass 5.3 million this year.

Maduro won a new six-year term in a May election marred by irregularities.

has mused about military intervention in Venezuela, leading Maduro to allege there is a US-backed plot against him.

The Lima Group bloc of Latin American powers and -- with the exception of -- has said it will not recognize the new Maduro-led administration set to begin on Thursday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 22:20 IST