U.S. banks need more “clarity” on the sanctions imposed by the White House last August on Venezuela and meanwhile try to “decipher” which Venezuelans to accept as customers and which to reject for belonging to the environment of President Nicolas Maduro.
The measure has affected “all banks. No one has escaped and all Venezuelan clients,” David Schwartz, president and executive director of the Florida International Bankers Association (FIBA), told Efe. FIBA gathered bankers in Miami on Thursday for a workshop to give them guidance on the matter.
Since the executive order of President Donald Trump came into effect in August, FIBA immediately formed a working group of six banks and expert lawyers who have been in permanent contact with the government to specify the scope of this blockade on Maduro’s assets.
Although in conversations with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) the sector has managed to add exceptions to the rule, Schwartz stressed that “the lack of clarity and detail persists” of a measure that “is very broad”.
This sanction of individuals and companies of the Maduro regime by the U.S. Treasury Department, through OFAC, “encompasses many people and as a precaution many banks prefer to close Venezuelan accounts so as not to run risks,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said Trump’s order caused “chaos” in Florida because of traditional relations between residents and businesses in the state and the South American country, and because of the large Venezuelan community in the region.
Daniel Gutiérrez of Ocean Bank, who participated in the workshop, told Efe that since the economic sanctions against Maduro’s regime began, they have managed to draw up a “black list” of over 900 people close to the president, which has been incorporated into bank transfer filters.
Similarly, after the August sanctions, they drew up another list, so far of 187 “designated” by Juan Guaidó, recognized by some fifty governments as president in charge of Venezuela, among them the United States, which are accepted by the banks.
This was achieved, Gutiérrez said, thanks to an exception to the rule that the bank requested in its conversations with OFAC.
However, Gutierrez said Trump’s order puts a strain on the bank, which also has to deal with and invest a lot of resources and money to combat money laundering.
“We, the banks, have to decipher a transaction that in real life is apparently innocent when it may have an asset laundering problem,” he said.
“With all the corruption, with the laundering, with the sanctions, with knowing who we’re dealing with, that’s a monster that’s hard to gnaw on, it’s a monster that’s hard to decipher,” he complained.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that money laundering moves between 800 billion and 2 trillion dollars a year globally.
Gutiérrez said that in this forum they analyzed these sanctions with a view to preparing audits because banking is “an area in which we are constantly being examined”.