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Swiss banker admits role in Venezuela money laundering ring

A former Julius Baer Group wealth manager pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a billion-dollar scheme to launder money embezzled from the Venezuela state oil company.

Matthias Krull, 44, a German national and Panama resident, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the DOJ said.

He was arrested in Miami in late July.

Krull had been vice chairman of Julius Baer Panama.

The conspiracy began in December 2014 with a currency exchange scheme designed to embezzle about $600 million from Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. or PDVSA, according to his plea. 

The amount embezzled from PDVSA doubled to $1.2 billion by May 2015.

Krull joined the conspiracy in 2016 when a co-conspirator asked him to help launder the money. He used real estate deals in Miami and phony investments.

The scam involved “money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere,” the DOJ said.

They operated as “a network of professional money launderers.”

The DOJ has charged at least seventeen other defendants in FCPA, fraud, and money laundering cases linked to PDVSA. Twelve have pleaded guilty.

Krull’s sentencing is set for October 29. He faces up to 10 years in prison. But as part of his plea deal he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The DOJ said Wednesday it had help from law enforcement agencies in the UK, Italy, Spain, and Malta. 

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Harry Cassin is the managing editor of the FCPA Blog.

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