The government of Bulgaria has frozen bank accounts that could have been used to withdraw money illegally from Venezuela, including the resources of the state oil company PVDSA, local authorities reported on Wednesday.
Those funds were formally intended for the purchase of food and the financing of Venezuelan sports federations, even if the banking operations were entrusted to a Bulgarian and bi-national business man who has already escaped from the country, official sources said.
Bulgarian attorney general Sotir Tsatsarov said in a press conference that part of those resources had already been transferred to other countries, but that there were still funds in local bank accounts.
"We have taken steps to put those funds, which are substantial enough, under control to prevent them from being removed from the country," Tsatsarov said.
Meanwhile, Dimitar Lazarov, chairman of the Bulgarian Congress security committee, told the local television network bTV that there were about 60 million euros ($ 67.6 million) in the intercepted accounts.
Lazarov added that there had been no activity in those bank accounts since the beginning of 2019, but that the authorities were still working to determine exactly how much money had invested them.
In this regard, Tsatsarov said that the Bulgarian and US authorities suspect that the formal motivations for transfers "have no relation to reality".
"We will most likely have a" money laundering investigation ", the Bulgarian prosecutor said, although he admitted that the authorities are still unable to confirm whether the suspicious transfers are linked to the political crisis in Venezuela.
For his part, the US ambassador to Bulgaria, Eric Rubin, said in the same press conference that it was crucial "to stop the illegal transfer of funds to support illegal authorities in Venezuela".
The goal of the operation announced this Wednesday "is to ensure that the wealth of the Venezuelan people is not stolen," said Rubin.
The United States has adopted sanctions against the government of Nicolás Maduro and support the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself interim president on January 23 and was recognized by about a hundred countries.
Carlos Paparoni, president of the committee of the financial committee of the Venezuelan National Assembly and similar to Guaidó, stated on Twitter on Twitter that PDVSA tried to divert public funds through Bulgaria.