Venezuela to freeze assets in Panama leaks probe
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has ordered banks to freeze the accounts of people that the government is investigating in connection with the leaked documents that originated with a Panama-based law firm that helps set up secretive offshore bank accounts and shell companies.
Public prosecutor Luisa Ortega told the television station Globovision on Monday that prosecutors are considering issuing arrest warrants for people named in the “Panama Papers” leak. She didn’t say who might be affected.
Venezuelans whose names have appeared in connection to the leak include a former top military officer, a former state oil company official and a security official who worked at the presidential palace during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez.
President Nicolas Maduro asked Ortega to investigate last week.
Venezuela is reportedly mentioned in 241,000 of the 11.5 million leaked documents. But as the country grapples with a severe economic crisis and worsening political gridlock, the leak has not made much of an impact on the public consciousness.
Venezuelans have less faith in the incorruptibility of their government than any other South American country, according to the watchdog group Transparency International.
Venezuela’s socialist administration has for years been dogged by allegations that officials are stealing money from public coffers.
Last year, the country asked foreign governments to share information about large offshore bank deposits amid a spate of reports that $2 billion was siphoned off by corrupt, top-level officials at state-run oil company PDVSA.
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