Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his administration appear to be leveraging tax revenue and cryptocurrencies as part of a broader effort to evade economic sanctions, an investigation by Spanish newspaper ABC has found.
As detailed in a story published Monday, the newspaper asserts it uncovered a scheme by which Maduro and his associates were using a digital wallet app to turn tax revenue from domestic airports into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that were then transferred to exchanges in Hong Kong, Hungary, Russia and China.
There, the funds were converted and sent back to Venezuela, according to the report.
The effort is the latest example of how the ban on Maduro’s government from using US bank accounts and from participating in the open international market has forced it to look at cryptocurrencies as a way to obtain dollars.
The newspaper alleges that the tax revenue in question came from the Maiquetia International Airport (IAIM) located near Caracas, the country’s capital, and that taxes were collected through an automated system that works with an app called Jetman Pay.
Maduro’s administration is said to be in talks to expand its use of the app, including for proceeds it collects from refueling airplane that traffic the airport.
In a contract – allegedly yet to be signed – the Jetman Pay app would be used to directly defy the U.S. ban again. Under the scheme, a plane would land at IAIM, at which point it would transfer fiat currencies in exchange for fuel. Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A, the state’s oil and natural gas company, would then use the app to pay government taxes, upon which it would be sent abroad as cryptocurrency.
The automated system has been used at IAIM since February 2018 for airport tax collection.
The report concluded by speculating that Maduro may be looking to expand the scheme to other airports across the country.