In brief

  • ICE and US Homeland Security have added Venezuela's crypto chief to its list of most wanted fugitives.
  • The US government is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Joselit Ramírez.
  • ICE alleges Ramírez has violated money laundering laws and US sanctions.

The head of Venezuela’s cryptocurrency agency is now a wanted man.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, put out a bulletin today adding Joselit Ramírez, chief of the National Superintendency of Cryptoassets (Sunacrip), to its list of most wanted fugitives.

And the US government is now offering a $5 million reward to whomever offers information leading to the arrest or conviction of Ramírez, who ICE alleges has “deep political, social and economic ties to multiple alleged narcotics kingpins.” Ramírez is himself wanted for “money laundering and sanctions evasion.”

The move comes the same day that Venezuela’s government has begun accepting the similarly sanctioned petro cryptocurrency for gasoline purchases. Venezuela last week received several shipments of gasoline from Iran, evading sanctions imposed by the United States.

Ramírez has been the head of Venezuela's crypto department since June 2018. His predecessor was Carlos Vargas, a well-known congressman and opposition leader who later worked with the Nicolas Maduro administration during the birth of the petro.

According the statement from ICE, Ramírez, 33, “has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Kingpin Act, and other sanctions imposed by U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).”

Earlier this year, the US government announced that it was investigating Ramírez for his ties to other allegedly corrupt Venezuelan officials. At that time, the US offered a $15 million reward for the capture of President Maduro, and $10 million for other high-profile officials, including Cliver Alcala, Diosdado Cabello, Hugo Carvajal, and Tareck el Aisammi. While Ramírez was mentioned among those being targeted, he had not been singled out for a bounty.

Earlier today, Venezuelan journalist Marbellis Linares posted a photograph of Ramírez on Twitter in which the Sunacrip chief appeared to be working from his office and seemingly unaffected by the ICE announcement. He did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.