US Congress: Trump diverted $ 600 million stolen from Venezuela to build his wall
According to documents of the Congress of that country, the United States president Donald Trump, would have used more than 600 million dollars stolen from Venezuela with the false argument of fighting corruption, terrorism and drug trafficking, to execute the works of the xenophobic wall placed on the border with Mexico.
In an article written by David Adams of Univisión News, entitled «The legal battle between the US and Venezuela for the billions of dollars confiscated from corrupt officials», he notes that the Trump government «has seized» – not to say stolen – «hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts», among other assets «of corrupt Venezuelan officials and their intermediaries in the United States. But none of that money has been returned to the Venezuelan people».
«The interim government of Venezuela says it wants access to the funds that were seized from corrupt officials in the United States and alleges that they belong to the Venezuelan people. But the American authorities have other plans. The Treasury Department diverted $ 601 million last year (2019) from its confiscation fund to help build President Trump’s border wall’, explained the article.
According to Univisión, Guaidó and his team are now seeking to defend the money stolen by the United States, a process that was carried out precisely with the help of this venezuelan opposition extremist group that promoted the kidnapping of the country’s resources abroad and the total blockade against the venezuelan people, a move that went against them and not as they expected.
“As Venezuela sinks deeper into its political and financial crisis, the billions of dollars in public assets (…) that have been retained by governments around the world, including that of Donald Trump, are gathering dust. Now (…) Juan Guaidó (…) is accelerating his efforts to try to recover that money», adds the text.
He adds that in the midst of that context, Washington «is waging a court battle to keep control of hundreds of millions of dollars of those illegal profits that are part of a treasure trove of assets confiscated around the world».
“There is a moral obligation to examine this issue carefully. The need in Venezuela is increasing and corruption is of an industrial magnitude», said Michael Camilleri, who is writing a report, on the confiscated funds, for Inter-American Dialogue (Diálogo Interamericano), a group of experts from Washington DC that promotes democracy in Latin America.
Camilleri estimated that «more than $ 1 billion in stolen money» is currently being held in the United States, «either in frozen bank accounts or in government forfeiture funds. The amount retained in accounts could be in the order of 24,000 million dollars, mainly in Europe».
«Even if a small fraction of this money could be recovered, it would be a much greater sum than the total humanitarian assistance that the international community has been able to gather for Venezuela», Camilleri stressed.
More than 600 million stolen for the wall
Adams indicates in his article that, until now, the Trump administration «seems to turn a blind eye to the increasing amount of money coming from the prosecution by federal authorities of important Venezuelan figures accused of bribery and money laundering».
«In the process, US authorities have seized hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts, luxury homes, cars, yachts, and expensive watches. But none of that money, the result of official corruption that includes currency trading and embezzlement of public funds from the state-owned oil company, PVDSA, has been returned to Venezuela», not even to Guaidó, he adds.
He explains that most of the money has been ‘recovered’ by the United States Departments of Justice and Treasury and is held in special confiscation funds that are mainly used to finance police investigations.
“A small portion of the money is shared with foreign governments in cases where they can demonstrate that they provided assistance and deserve a share of the revenue. But, until now, Venezuela has received nothing», he says.
In this regard, Andrés Oppenheimer, an Argentine journalist residing in Miami, wrote an opinion article on the subject, where he details that the news of the use of these resources stolen from Venezuela, is an important piece of information that went under the table in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and the crisis generated by the massive anti-racial and against police abuse protests.
«Here is a news story that went almost unnoticed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and racial protests in the United States, but it deserves attention: it points out that President Donald Trump would have used funds seized from the Venezuelan dictatorship to pay for his useless border wall».
According to Oppenheimer, Juan Guaidó’s lawyers, whom he mentions «as president of the Assembly» and who «is recognized by the United States as the legitimate president of Venezuela», have requested that the money be turned over «to the interim government of Guaidó» so as to be distributed «- under US supervision -» among Venezuelans «suffering from the country’s humanitarian crisis».
«The seized assets are being held by the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department’s Confiscation Fund. And, according to congressional records and court documents, about $ 601 million from the Treasury Confiscation Fund has been used to build the Trump border wall», stated Oppenheimer in his article published in The New Herald and Miami Herald.
«When I asked him about the article, the ambassador of the interim government of Guaidó in the United States, Carlos Vecchio, told me that he and the attorney general of the Guaidó government, José Ignacio Hernández, have officially requested the Trump government to assign them those funds to help Venezuelans during the coronavirus pandemic, and for the more than 5 million Venezuelan refugees», says the Argentine journalist.
Oppenheimer added that Vecchio – false ambassador of Venezuela and member of the seditious group Voluntad Popular, which has been in charge of stealing the resources and sequestered the assets of the CITGO refinery, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) valued at more than 60,000 million, dollars – said he did not know if that money had been spent on the wall.
«I don’t know if the money was used for the border wall or not», Vecchio told me. ‘What I know is that we are doing everything possible so that this money goes to a fund and is transparently delivered to the Venezuelan people”, Oppenheimer said.
Control of stolen resources is held by Trump
Vecchio later told Oppenheimer «that he hopes to sign an agreement with the Trump government ‘this year’ to create that fund», despite the fact that Venezuela, under the false mandate of Juan Guaidó, was supposed to have control of these resources from January 2019, a confession that debunks that the resources of the Venezuelan State – frozen and sequestered – are being «guarded» to «protect them from the dictatorship» of Maduro and so they can be able to give them to the Venezuelans.
«Much of the problem lies in establishing a legal framework whereby recovered assets can be pooled into a single fund, rather than having to be litigated on a case-by-case basis», Vecchio explained.
Oppenheimer explained that according to the US Department of Justice, the United States government has at least $ 450 million in Venezuelan assets «linked to corruption». Much of that money was seized in South Florida.
«Senator Bob Menéndez (from New Jersey), who sponsored the TRUTH law to ensure the delivery of these funds to a future democratic government in Venezuela, told me in an email that ‘instead of using these funds to support Venezuelans who desperately need humanitarian aid or the future reconstruction of Venezuela, I am dismayed to know that the Trump Administration may be wasting them on President Trump’s shameful border wall», says the Argentine journalist.
Oppenheimer adds that «it is time for Trump to give a detailed explanation of whether that money has been used to pay for part of the border wall. As we have said many times, the Trump wall is an incredibly expensive project that does little good».
«Contrary to Trump’s xenophobic demagoguery, the number of undocumented immigrants detained at the border is far less than it was in the first decade of the 21st century, according to Border Patrol figures. In addition, almost half of the undocumented Mexicans do not arrive in the United States crossing the border, but arrive by plane and stay beyond what is allowed on their visas», he stresses.
He adds that «the most important thing» for Venezuela «is that Trump should accelerate the creation of a legal mechanism to release these funds» and that the US government «has contributed very little» to help Venezuelans with resources.
«Compared to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and other countries, the United States has contributed very little, as a percentage of its gross product, to help the Venezuelan people. Worse yet, unlike Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, Trump has refused to grant Venezuelans temporary migratory protection status. It is time for Trump to be more generous with the victims of the Venezuelan dictatorship. And the money is there! ”, closes the article.
Oppenheimer is not exactly a defender of the Venezuelan government, but on the contrary, has historically been a promoter of the media campaigns of US lies against Venezuela to sustain a continued attack that seeks to control the political and economic power in the South American country.
Since January 2019, Washington has used the facade of Guaidó and the creation of a false parallel State in Venezuela, with which it has managed to steal resources from Venezuela abroad, intensify the total blockade, sabotage the oil industry and suffocate the people to see if they generate a social implosion that has had no effect. Months go by and the only thing they have left in evidence is the vile theft of billions of dollars that have caused an exacerbation of the deficiencies in the quality of life of Venezuelans.
Money is not lacking, there is a surplus of thieves
Adams adds, in his article, that the United States does not maintain diplomatic relations with Maduro, whom the Justice Department has accused of «massive corruption and drug trafficking»; and Guaidó, on the other hand, «does not have access to power and does not control any of the country’s law enforcement agencies that can provide assistance in the enforcement of the laws of the United States».
«Why would the United States want to share something with Maduro if he does not cooperate and the money was stolen by his government officials in the first place?», said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami, interviewed by Adams, who adds that «it would be good» to help a «new government» that emerges in Venezuela, «but why reward them if they have not participated in any of these investigations or have done nothing to help us?».
US authorities say the court-ordered confiscations are sent to two funds, one administered by the Justice Department and the other by the Treasury Department. Most seized assets end up with the Justice Department, while sanctioned assets, court-imposed fines, and taxes owed go to the Treasury Department.
“The confiscated funds can be returned to a requesting foreign country. However, that determination is made on a case-by-case basis and based on specific facts», said a Justice Department spokesperson quoted in the article, adding that» the Treasury Department» ends up using «the funds to pay for investigations and expenses such as reward money, outside contractors, and storage of seized assets, such as drugs, as well as the payment of overtime wages, travel, fuel, training, and equipment”.
«Revenue is also shared with other federal agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, and foreign countries, depending on their level of involvement in the investigation», he adds.
Guaidó does not know what to do so as to keep something
The Univisión article explains that in supposedly «legal documents», Guaidó’s lawyers have alleged that the state-owned PDVSA «is a ‘victim’ of the greed of government officials and, therefore, deserves the restitution of its confiscated assets».
«Under international law, including the 2003 United Nations Convention against Corruption, the United States may not have much of a right to funds», adds the text based on a statement by financial adviser José Gonzáles, who says that “the money does not belong to the United States. It is Venezuela’s money».
But Miami federal prosecutors responded in May, saying PDVSA «does not qualify as a victim» because of its «complicity in bribery and money laundering schemes» and because a sovereign entity cannot be considered a victim of crime.
Prosecutors argued that the crime victims compensation law only applies to directly injured people. It does not apply where «the number of identifiable victims is so great that it makes compensation unfeasible», they added, noting that Venezuela was a nation of 30 million people.
In another article written by Adams and titled «Government of Guaidó seeks agreement with the United States to recover money from corruption in Venezuela», based on an interview with Vecchio, the member of the seditious group Voluntad Popular said that «he began planning a strategy to persuade the United States Congress to pass a law, writing letters to two influential senators, Republican Marco Rubio, from Florida, and Democrat Bob Menendez, from New Jersey».
«We told them that the criteria for victims had to be changed», said Vecchio, also a promoter of the theft of resources from Venezuela and its CITGO refinery.
According to the article, «in recent months», Guaidó’s bogus «Special Prosecutor», José Ignacio Hernández, «has begun to challenge some confiscations in US federal courts».
He adds that according to Vecchio, the idea is not «to go case by case», but to focus «on an agreement to share assets with the US authorities».
«We don’t want to litigate on a case-by-case basis, we need to reach a comprehensive agreement on this», says Vecchio, who confesses that the most convenient thing for them is to establish a figure and «a distribution of the percentage» of the money stolen from Venezuela.
«We say that there is no type of problem, that we establish all the necessary mechanisms, with representatives of the United States and international organizations», he added, suggesting that it could be shared with the governments of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, which have received «millions» of Venezuelans.