The government of Bulgaria froze bank accounts that could have been used to withdraw money illegally from Venezuela, including resources from the state oil company PVDSA, local authorities reported Wednesday.
Those funds were formally destined to purchase food and to finance Venezuelan sports federations, although the banking operations were in charge of a binational Bulgarian businessman who has already escaped from the country, official sources said.
The Bulgarian Prosecutor General, Sotir Tsatsarov, told a press conference that part of those resources had already been transferred to other countries but that there were still funds in the local bank accounts.
"We have taken steps to put those funds, which are quite substantial, under control to prevent them from being removed from the country," Tsatsarov said.
Meanwhile, Dimitar Lazarov, the chairman of the security committee in the Bulgarian Congress, told the local television network bTV that there were about 60 million euros ($ 67.6 million) in the intercepted accounts.
Lazarov added that there had been no activity in those bank accounts since the beginning of 2019, but that the authorities were still working to establish exactly how much money went through them.
In this regard, Tsatsarov said that Bulgarian and US authorities suspect that the formally offered reasons for the transfers "have no relation to reality."
"We will most likely open an investigation for money laundering," the Bulgarian prosecutor said, although he admitted that the authorities still could not confirm whether the transfers under suspicion were related to the political crisis in Venezuela.
For his part, the Ambassador of the United States in Bulgaria, Eric Rubin, said at the same press conference that it was fundamental "to interrupt the illegal transfer of funds to support the illegal authorities in Venezuela."
The objective of the operation announced this Wednesday "is to ensure that the wealth of the Venezuelan people is not stolen," Rubin said.
The United States adopted sanctions against the government of Nicolás Maduro and supports the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself interim president on January 23 and was recognized by around a hundred countries.
Carlos Paparoni, chairman of the commission of the finance committee of the Venezuelan National Assembly, and akin to Guaidó, said on Twitter on Twitter that PDVSA had tried to divert public funds through Bulgaria.