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FBI Money Laundering Probe of Venezuela Funds Includes U.S. Virgin Islands

SAN JUAN — The FBI said its raid of a Puerto Rico bank on Wednesday is part of a larger money laundering investigation that includes the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The United States is waging a war against money laundering,” FBI spokesman Luis Rivera-Santana said. “Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are battlefields in this war.”

Rivera-Santana said that agents had a search warrant to identify funds that might be linked to Venezuelan entities or individuals on the sanction list. He said federal officials suspect someone might have used the bank to launder money from a person or entity on that list.

No one has been arrested as part of the investigation against the bank, BSJI, which is located in the capital of San Juan. It lists contact numbers for the U.S. and Venezuela and states that it offers financial services to international customers.

Rivera-Santana said it’s the first operation of its kind in the U.S. commonwealth. The investigation began at a local level after the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico found alleged evidence now being investigated at a federal level, said Douglas Leff, FBI special agent in charge of the San Juan division.

Leff told reporters that the operation took several hours as agents collected paper and digital documents.

Hector Vazquez Muniz, chief financial officer of Banco San Juan Internacional, said in a statement that the bank has taken all appropriate measures to comply with the U.S. sanctions, and that he is unaware of any transactions that could violate those.

Vazquez Muniz rejected the allegations and said they have been cooperating with the FBI investigation.

“We can assure you that once the FBI revises all the documents and those that we can provide, this regrettable situation will be clarified,” he said.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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