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US government puts a $5m bounty on the Venezuela’s crypto boss

Creator of Venezuela’s Petro crypto wanted for money laundering


The United States government has put a $5m (£ ) bounty on the head of Joselit Ramírez Camacho, the creator of the Venezuelan state cryptocurrency, Petro.

The Petro (PTR), which Ramírez helped create in 2018, was supposed to help the Venezuelan government cope with the strain of American sanctions and to supplement the nation’s Bolívar Fuerte.

When a new national currency, the Bolívar Soberano, was launched later that year to counteract rampant hyperinflation, President Nicholas Maduro, the leader of the South American nation, announced that it would be linked to the value of the Petro. However, with the collapse of Venezuela’s oil revenue and further turmoil within Venezuela, the Petro has proven to be something of a damp squib.

This has not deterred the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security, which named the head of Venezuela’s National Superintendency of Cryptoassets (Sunacrip), to its list of most wanted fugitives.

Slapping a bounty of up to $5m on Ramírez, ICE alleged that he has “deep political, social and economic ties” to suspected narcotic kingpins. One of these supposed drug lords is Tareck El Aissami, the former Vice President of Venezuela.  

As well as Petro, both men helped launch the Patria platform, through which Venezuelans can receive significant cryptocurrency payments from overseas. This infrastructure, along with the accumulation of significant Bitcoin and Ethereum (ETH) holdings by the Venezuelan government, has helped it cope with American sanctions to some extent.

An indication of the American frustration with such activities can be found in the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s intervention on Monday, in which he maintained that Ramirez has helped the Venezuelan government engage in “money laundering to hide the proceeds of its illegal activities."

Although the capture of Ramírez and El Aissami remains unlikely, the US government’s latest announcement serves as an indication of  the vituperative enmity and anger on both sides.


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