This story was updated throughout with additional information from U.S. authorities and research by Kharon.
The U.S. imposed sanctions and filed criminal charges against a former Venezuelan government minister and a former director at a state-owned electricity company for their alleged roles in laundering the proceeds of a bribery scheme relating to $60 million in contracts.
The case comes as Washington increases its pressure on Caracas amid Venezuela’s ongoing economic, political and humanitarian crisis. Elliot Abrams, the U.S. envoy to Venezuela, briefed reporters on Tuesday about Washington’s interests in the region, and blamed the country’s leaders for the situation on the ground. U.S. prosecutors have charged and convicted dozens in recent years for corruption related to Venezuela, and Washington has also imposed several rounds of sanctions on top Venezuelan officials, government agencies and national banks.
Luis Alfredo Motta Dominguez (Motta) and Eustiquio Jose Lugo Gomez (Lugo) were charged Thursday in an eight count indictment filed in Miami federal court that alleges money laundering and conspiracy, prosecutors said. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the two men hours after prosecutors announced the charges.
Until recently, Motta was the electrical energy minister and head of National Electric Corporation (Corpoelec), and Lugo was the company’s procurement director. Lugo is the deputy minister of finance, investment and strategic alliances at the electrical power ministry. Motta remains the president of Corpoelec’s board of directors, according to the company’s website. Motta is a major general of the Bolivarian National Guard, and Lugo is a brigadier general.