US Treasury Sanctions Russian Bank Over Involvement in Venezuela’s Petro Project

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of Treasury, has added Evrofinance Mosnarbank to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) List over supporting Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s disputed crypto project, according to the government department’s press release published Monday.

Co-owned by both Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, the Moscow-based bank has recently been sanctioned by OFAC for serving as the “primary” international bank that helped finance Petro, Maduro’s “failed” sovereign cryptocurrency.

As the Treasury stated in the announcement:

“Early investors in the Petro were invited to buy the cryptocurrency by wiring funds to a Venezuelan government account at Evrofinance. Evrofinance’s involvement in the Petro demonstrated Maduro’s hope that the Petro would allow Venezuela to circumvent U.S. financial sanctions.”

Furthermore, the Treasury also underscored the bank’s involvement with Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA), a state-owned Venezuelan oil firm that has also been sanctioned by the U.S. government since January for serving as “a vehicle for corruption, embezzlement, and money laundering by Maduro and his cronies.”

As U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin declared:

“The United States will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela.”

Following the Treasury’s announcement, the bank subsequently released an official statement that same day, clarifying that Evrofinance “continues to operate in a stable manner” and will “unconditionally fulfill all its obligations to customers and partners in full.”

As part of the Treasury’s sanction against Evrofinance, “all property and interests in property of this entity, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by this entity, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”

Maduro’s sovereign cryptocurrency initially launched its pre-sale in February last year and was subsequently rolled out to all citizens in October through the Venezuelan government’s portal.