German banker pleads guilty to role in billion-dollar money laundering scheme involving Maltese company

A German private banker, Matthias Krull, pleaded guilty for his role in a billion-dollar scheme to launder funds from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

According to the US Homeland Security Investigations criminal complaint, millions were wired to a Maltese intermediary between late 2014 and early 2015.

A Sliema-based private wealth management firm, Portmann Capital Management is being investigated for its role in the scheme, allegedly helping to launder $1.2 billion in funds looted from PDVSA. It is believed that the firm received upwards of €20 million for laundering the money at a 4% service charge.

According to the investigations, €511 million were laundered through Portmann Capital Management using a series of fraudulent bond issues and investment funds.

The Maltese registered company is owned by Swiss financier Kurt Portmann and his son Yves-Alain Portmann.

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) ordered Portmann Capital Management to refrain from processing outgoing transactions and from taking on any new clients.

Moreover, the Maltese police are looking into the transactions processed by the company.

MaltaToday reported that Bank of Valletta filed a suspicious transaction report with the FIAU in 2015 before closing the company’s accounts.

Portmann Capital Management last banked with Sparkasse Bank, a Maltese subsidiary of the Austrian Erste Banking Group.

Krull, who until last month was one of Julius Baer Group Ltd.’s wealth managers for Venezuela, was charged for his alleged role in using real estate and false-investment schemes to launder money stolen from PDVSA.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 29 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida, who accepted his plea.

Krull who was based in Panama, admitted that in his role with the Swiss bank, he attracted private clients, particularly clients from Venezuela. His clients included Francisco Convit Guruceaga, who was indicted on money laundering charges on August 16. Krull’s clients also included three unnamed conspirators.

The Miami Herald reported that the unnamed co-conspirators named in the Homeland Security Investigations complaint include the stepsons of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

The US Department of Justice said Krull and members of the money laundering conspiracy used Miami, Florida real estate and sophisticated false-investment schemes to conceal that the $1.2 billion was in fact embezzled from PDVSA.

Krull also admitted that surrounding and supporting these false-investment laundering schemes are complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers.


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