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Venezuela to freeze assets in Panama leaks probe

/ 09:04 AM April 12, 2016
Alvaro Aleman, Luis Hincapie

Panama’s Cabinet Chief Alvaro Aleman, right, and Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Hincapie give a press conference regarding the “panama papers” in Panama City, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Millions of confidential documents were leaked from the Panama-based law firm, coined the “panama papers,” revealing details of how some of the globe’s richest people funnel their assets into secretive shell companies set up here and in other lightly regulated jurisdictions. President Juan Carlos Varela has promised to cooperate with any judicial investigations stemming from the leaked data. AP

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.

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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.

READ: Why few Americans in Panama Papers? Lawyer doesn’t want them

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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.

READ: China squelches Panama reports on hidden wealth

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.

READ: BIR to look into ‘Panama papers’

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TAGS: accounts, bank, documents, Leak, offshore, Panama Papers, Venezuela
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