USA issues new Venezuela Executive Order; increases sanctions

US Flag3.jpgYesterday, US President Trump announced that he had increased sanctions on Venezuela by issuing a new Executive Order, prohibiting US persons from transacting in:

(i) The purchase of any debt owed to the Venezuelan government (including accounts receivable);

(ii) Any debt owed to the Venezuelan government that is pledged as collateral after 21 May 2018 (including accounts receivable); and

(iii) The sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Venezuelan government of any equity interest in any entity in which the Venezuelan government has a 50% or greater ownership interest.

Last week, OFAC sanctioned (inter alia) a number of current and former officials of the Venezuelan government (previous blog).

OFAC sanctions current & former officials of Venezuelan government

OFAC2Today, OFAC designated Venezuelan national Diosdado Cabello Rondón (First-Vice President of President Maduro’s political party), pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for being a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela. OFAC also designated 3 other individuals – José David Cabello Rondón (Mr Rondón’s brother), Marleny Josefina Contreras Hernández (Mr Rondón’s wife), and Rafael Alfredo Sarria Diaz (Mr Rondón’s “front man”) – for being current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela, or for acting for or on behalf of designated individuals as key figures in Mr Rondón’s “corruption network”. As a result, US travel bans and asset freezing measures apply to all designated individuals.

OFAC also sanctioned 3 Florida-based companies that are owned or controlled by Mr Diaz, namely: SAI Advisors Inc; Noor Plantation Investments LLC; and 11420 Corp (asset freezes imposed). Furthermore, 14 properties in Florida and New York, owned by Mr Diaz directly or through his companies have been blocked. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

OFAC sanctions “drug trafficking and money laundering network led by former senior Venezuelan intelligence officer”

OFAC3Yesterday, OFAC designated Venezuelan national Pedro Luis Martin Olivares as a significant narcotics trafficker pursuant to the US Kingpin Act. He is a “former Chief of Financial Intelligence for Venezuela’s National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services” (now known as the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service). OFAC also designated Walter Alexander Del Nogal Marquez and Mario Antonio Rodriguez Espinoza for materially assisting/supporting the “international narcotics trafficking activities of [Mr Martin Olivares]”. OFAC further designated 20 companies in Venezuela and Panama that are “owned or controlled by these three individuals” and which are “allegedly [being] used to launder illicit proceeds from both narcotics trafficking and extortion”. As a result, asset freezing measures have been imposed on all of the designated individuals and entities. Links to OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

Switzerland aligns with EU-Venezuela sanctions

Switzerland1.jpgYesterday, the Swiss Federal Council adopted sanctions against Venezuela in order to align itself with recent EU measures (see previous blogs here and here). As a result, an arms and repressive goods embargo have been adopted, as well as targeted measures (asset freezes and travel restrictions) against 7 Venezuelan ministers/high-ranking officials. Swiss press release here.

New US Executive Order prohibiting transactions with Venezuelan digital currencies

Trump5.jpgUS President Trump has issued a new Executive Order, which takes additional steps to address the situation in Venezuela. In particular, it prohibits US persons from transacting/dealing with “any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token, that was issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela on or after January 9, 2018”. The “Government of Venezuela” is stated as including the Central Bank of Venezuela, as well as the state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).

Acting concurrently, OFAC has released new FAQs related to this Executive Order (which confirms that both the ‘petro’ and the ‘petro-gold’ fall within the Executive Order), as well as a set of new Digital Currency-related FAQs. Furthermore, OFAC has designated 4 current or former Venezuelan government officials pursuant to Executive Order 13692 (asset freezes imposed), namely: Willian Antonio Contreras (‘Vice Minister of Internal Commerce’), Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje Salazar (‘Head of the Office of the National Treasury’), Americo Alex Mata Garcia (‘Alternate Director on the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Housing and Habitat’), and Carlos Alberto Rotondaro Cova (‘Former President of the Board of Directors of the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security’). See OFAC Notice here, and US Treasury press release here.

We previously reported that OFAC had published an FAQ relating to US person involvement in the Venezuelan government’s digital currency – the petro – which was launched in February 2018.

Venezuelan oil company PDVSA replaces finance executive over US sanctions

Oil and gas.jpgVenezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A (PDVSA) has replaced its Vice President of Finance, Simon Zerpa Delgado, reportedly over concerns that US sanctions on him had led to certain oil exports to the US being blocked. Mr Zerpa Delgado was sanctioned by OFAC on 26 July 2017, pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for his involvement in “Venezuelan Government corruption” (links to OFAC Notice and Treasury press release).

UK extends EU Venezuela sanctions to Overseas Territories

Parliament2The UK has passed the Venezuela (Sanctions) (Overseas Territories) Order 2018, SI 2018/179, which gives effect in specified Overseas Territories to the EU sanctions measures provided in Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/2074 and Council Regulation (EU) 2017/2063. Those include an arms embargo, framework to impose targeted measures against those responsible for human rights violations and/or undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela (see previous blog here). The Order comes into force on 8 March 2018.

The Overseas Territories to which this Order extends: Anguilla; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in the Island of Cyprus; Turks and Caicos Islands; and Virgin Islands.

Third countries align with EU Venezuela sanctions

EU3.jpgThe EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia have aligned themselves with Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/90. That decision added 7 officials to the EU’s Venezuela sanctions list, including the head of the Venezuelan judiciary, Maikel José Moreno Pérez (previous blog here).