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The Venezuelan bank Banesco Banco Universal CA was intervened by the Bolivarian Government on May 3 while eleven senior executives were detained by the Public Ministry of that country. The charge: breach of obligated subjects; that is to say, according to the government, there was the responsibility of the top management of the banking entity to 'facilitate or cover up the attacks against the Venezuelan currency'.

But how was the Venezuelan currency 'attacked' exactly? Lenny Durán, Venezuelan reporter specializing in economic issues, helps us understand it.


The Venezuelan Government, together with the nation's security forces, began Operation Hands of Paper to dismantle the criminal gangs that have carried out the extraction and theft of the monetary cone, as well as the imposition of criminal rates of the speculative dollar. The action resulted in the discovery of 1,133 bank accounts in 19 national banks that, according to the Venezuelan government, used a 'transnational network of organized crime' to extract paper money and purchase cash to the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

Of the total bank accounts raided, 959 belonged to Banesco; that is, 90%, which is why the Attorney General, Tareck William Saab, linked the management of Banesco Venezuela with the plot and gave rise to the intervention of the financial institution for ninety days.


Durán recalled that the government has said on other occasions that international mafias take out the country's notes (mainly towards Cúcuta), to make fake dollars or to acquire subsidized goods sold in Colombia.

The reporter explained to La Estrella de Panama that this argument was used by President Nicolás Maduro in December 2016 to take out of circulation the 100 bolívares ticket, which at that time was the highest denomination, in a period of 72 hours, without that the 500 bolivars bill that was going to replace it had still reached the banks. That generated chaos because that (the Bs.100) was the ticket with which people could buy their goods, without having to load so much cash, in a country where the rates of insecurity are eleven times higher than the world average. , according to Amnesty International.

On the border with Colombia, the 'mafias', in which according to the communicator also participate Venezuelan national guards, people connected with the government and citizens of the neighbouring country, bought the tickets for a price less than their value. "In the end that measure only created a terrible shortage of cash, since people had to make long lines in the banks in an attempt to get rid of the bills that would lose their value in 72 hours. There were even elderly people who burned them or threw them out because of the frustration of not being able to change them, "Durán explained.

Maduro retracted and postponed the measure "benefiting the mafias he said he was fighting." He has already tried thirteen times to remove the 100 bolivars bill from circulation and it has not yet been done; supposedly next May 20 is the last term, now under a new monetary cone, said the editor of informative portals.

Regarding the accusation of currency speculation, Durán recalled that in Venezuela there has been exchanging control for many years; that is, there is a dollar price set by the government and a real price. At one point there were up to seven exchange rates, one of which was preferential for supposedly importing medicines and basic necessities, but only those people connected to the government through their companies had access to these currencies.

At present the common citizen does not have the facility to get dollars at the official price, because there is little supply, except for the auctions that the government eventually makes and to which only people with high purchasing power and close to the government have access. The only way for people 'to walk' to acquire foreign currency is to buy them on the black market, which is known as the parallel market, which in many cases has the price closest to the dollar with respect to the Bolivar, although it also lends itself to speculation.

The Operation Hands of Paper was born to detect those mafias that, says the Government, 'try to establish a parallel financial system with speculative dollar rates'.


Banesco is the only bank in Venezuela through which people living abroad can send remittances to their families, they sell the dollars and thus have cash in bolivars to buy basic necessities. Many Venezuelans consulted indicated that it is "the only reliable bank at the moment", while economists, analysts and opposition sectors point out that the Maduro government wants to control those currencies that are entering Banesco through the remittances that are sent.

According to a report by the firm Datos, about $ 1,500 million of remittances come into the country each year. The report also notes that 14% of Venezuela's adult population (approximately three million people) receives money, food and medicine from abroad. And of that 14%, 11% receive foreign currency (euros or dollars) and the other 3% get medicines, food and also foreign currency.

The communicator deduces that the idea of the government is that these remittances do not reach directly to their recipients, but that the Central Bank of Venezuela manages them and gives the family the official equivalent price in bolivars for them to keep the foreign currency.

One dollar in Venezuela, in the parallel market (black) is equivalent to Bs.710,845.12 (until May 11), while the Dicom price (official rate) is in Bs.70,000 (until May 11). To have an idea, a dozen eggs cost Bs. 2 million according to consulted sources, and every day reflects an increase (see graph).

Last January, Chavez leader Diosdado Cabello commented in a radio program that they were in negotiations for the purchase of Banesco, as he said then, for 3.5 million dollars, "Banesco put it on sale for us cheap, really cheap," he said in statements replicated in international media; same as at that time refuted Juan Carlos Escotet, president of Banesco, to deny in their social networks that the bank was for sale. 'Today more than ever, my bet is for Venezuela,' the executive posted on his Twitter account.


Banesco was established in Panama in 1993 to operate under an international license as a subsidiary of Banesco Holding CA, of Venezuelan capital, although the opening was made in dollars because it is the circulation currency in Panama. Subsequently, in 2007 they entered the local market with a general license, which is what they currently maintain.

The Banking Superintendency of Panama clarified in a statement that the Banesco group (including its Abanca brand in Europe) is structured legally and organizationally in four main parallel markets: Venezuela, the United States, Europe and Panama, so they have a "management of their banking business separately and independently 'and stressed that Banesco, SA (Panama)' has no relationship with the banking business in Venezuela. '

Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst 

Contributed by Rekha Chandiramani