Venezuela has been mired in economic sanctions for some time now. The impact of these sanctions is far reaching and has been felt among the citizens of the country. In a bid to counteract the effects of US sanctions and protect its citizens, Venezuela has recently announced a restructuring of its National Superintendency of Crypto Assets and Related Activities, also known as Sunacrip, headed by Anabel Pereira Fernández.
The move comes as Joselit Ramirez, the former head of SUNACRIP, has been arrested on corruption charges, according to Venezuelan media. Also, the US government has placed a bounty of up to $5 million on Ramirez’s head. It appears the move by the Venezuelan government is most likely related to this particular development, as well as to lend a sense of control and regulation to their citizens that may have resorted to using cryptocurrency for trade and remittances.
The restructuring process was officially prompted with a decree issued by Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. The long-term intention is stated to be “the rational use of human, material, and budgetary resources.” The board of directors and Ramirez’s replacement will all be approved by the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Commerce and be under the close scrutiny of the government.
Ramirez himself is no stranger to controversy and had previously been linked to a drug kingpin and placed on the US’s Most Wanted List. He was on duty when the Petro, the country’s own cryptocurrency, was established and was responsible for the installation and coordination of the ecosystem. He also spearheaded the effort to promote and implement the legal framework governing the crypto activities in the country, as well as the accompanying regulations.
The mystery behind Ramirez’s arrest is still unfolding and authorities from both the US and Venezuela have yet to provide any solid evidence or back up to the charges. Besides corruption, the US government is also accusing Ramirez of “involvement in serious acts of administrative corruption and embezzlement of funds,” with reports suggesting that $3 billion in oil sales have been diverted away from official government accounts. We can only speculate on the potential ramifications of such a move by the Venezuelan government.
On the US end, crypto trading firms have been facing some scrutiny for their involvement in the crime. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a civil complaint against two firms and their respective executives, alleging that they had enabled the victims to engage in a money laundering scheme by trading millions of dollars in cryptocurrency into fiat. The penalty for being found guilty on the charges ranges from one year in jail to 15 years in prison.
Fortunately, the Venezuelan government has taken a step in the right direction with their reorganization of the SUNACRIP board. Despite the arrest and investigation of the former head Joselit Ramirez, it appears the government is seeking to make a positive impact on their citizens’ lives by trying to protect them from the economic sanctions of other nations and create a secure environment for cryptocurrency trading. The US may have to step up to the plate soon, too, as the lack of clarity surrounding the proposed crypto tax regulations has proven to be a huge obstacle for businesses operating in the space. It will be interesting to see if the government is able to create a successful framework to regulate the cryptocurrency industry and ensure the protection of its citizens, despite the challenging times.