Former Swiss Bank Executive Pleads Guilty to Role in Billion-Dollar International Money Laundering Scheme Involving Funds Embezzled from Venezuelan State-Owned Oil Company
The former managing director and vice chairman of a Swiss bank pleaded guilty today for his role in a billion-dollar international scheme to launder funds embezzled from Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Mark Selby of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Matthias Krull, 44, a German national and Panamanian resident, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 29 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida, who accepted his plea today.
As part of his plea, Krull admitted that in his position with the Swiss bank, he attracted private clients, particularly clients from Venezuela, to the bank. In this role, Krull’s clients included Francisco Convit Guruceaga, who was indicted on money laundering charges on Aug. 16. Krull’s clients also included three unnamed conspirators described in the Aug. 16 indictment.
Krull admitted that the conspiracy began in December 2014 with a currency exchange scheme that was designed to embezzle around $600 million from PDVSA, obtained through bribery and fraud, and the conspirators’ efforts to launder a portion of the proceeds of that scheme. By May 2015, the conspiracy had doubled in amount to $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA. PDVSA is Venezuela’s primary source of income and foreign currency (namely, U.S. Dollars and Euros). Krull joined the conspiracy in or around 2016, he admitted, when a co-conspirator contacted him to launder the proceeds of a PDVSA foreign-exchange embezzlement scheme.
Ultimately, Krull joined the conspiracy to launder $1.2 billion worth of funds that were embezzled from PDVSA, he admitted. Krull and members of the money laundering conspiracy used Miami, Florida real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal that the $1.2 billion was in fact embezzled from PDVSA. Krull also admitted that surrounding and supporting these false-investment laundering schemes are complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers.
Krull’s co-conspirators indicted on Aug. 16 include former PDVSA officials, professional third-party money launderers, and members of the Venezuelan elite, sometimes known as “boliburgués.”
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s (OCDETF) “Operation Money Flight,” a partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
HSI Miami, HSI London, HSI Rome and HSI Madrid investigated this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief David Johnson and Trial Attorney Gwendolyn Stamper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francisco R. Maderal of the Southern District of Florida’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section and Michael Nadler of the Southern District of Florida’s Economic and Environmental Crimes Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nalina Sombuntham of the Southern District of Florida is handling the asset forfeiture.
The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom; and Italian, Spanish and Maltese law enforcement authorities provided assistance.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.