Most Wanted: US Authorities Place $5M Bounty On The Man Behind Venezuela’s Petro Cryptocurrency

The United States government has recently added a top Venezuelan official to its list of most-wanted fugitives while offering millions of dollars as rewards to anyone who can provide useful information that would lead to his arrest. 

A Monday statement revealed that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), a unit of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York is looking for Joselit Ramírez, the head of Venezuela’s national cryptocurrency Petro. 

A $5 Million Reward

Ramírez, 33, is being accused of having deep social and political connections to multiple alleged drug lords, including former Venezuelan vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who is also on the ICE’s most wanted list for drug operations and money laundering.  

The agency claims that Ramírez’s ties with alleged narcotics kingpins saw him broke money laundering laws while also evading U.S. sanctions. 

Joselit Ramirez, Head of Venezuela’s Cryptocurrency

Ramírez “has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Kingpin Act, and other sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC),” part of the ICE statement reads. 

Following the additions of Venezuela’s cryptocurrency superintendent to its list, the U.S. government is offering up to $5 million as a reward for anyone who can help in the arrest or conviction of Ramírez. 

Using Crypto To Evade U.S. Sanctions

Since the launch of its state-back cryptocurrency, Venezuela has allegedly been evading financial sanctions when dealing with other countries. 

Just last week, reports emerged that the South American nation finally received the first five tankers of gasoline from Iran, another U.S. foe, after months of shortage due to the imposed U.S. sanctions. The operation was reportedly conducted with no sign of interference from the U.S. government. 

After the arrival of the tankers, Venezuela ordered all gas stations in the country to include Petro cryptocurrency as a payment option. This means that residents will now be able to buy gas using petro, but only if they understand how to use the digital currency and its wallet.  

This move also goes against the U.S. sanction on the Petro. Last year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning all transactions in the U.S. involving the petro cryptocurrency. According to the report at that time, the order applies to both citizens and residents in the U.S.  

US DOJ Charges President Maduro

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials with international narcotics operations, which flooded the U.S. with illegal drugs for more than 20 years. 

The DOJ also alleged that the perpetrators used cryptocurrencies to hide the illegal transactions of their drug cartels. 

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