Florida banks increase scrutiny over Venezuela transactions amid US sanctions

Previously, Venezuelans were among biggest buyers of luxury real estate in Miami

PDVSA Flag (Credit: iStock)
PDVSA Flag (Credit: iStock)

Florida banks are feeling the sting of the recent sanctions imposed against the government of Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolas Maduro.

In the past, Venezuelans have ranked as one of the largest foreign buyers of luxury real estate in Miami. Over the past two years, however, those numbers have dropped significantly as Venezuela has descended into economic and humanitarian turmoil.

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Now, banks in the state are having to spend an increasing amount of time reviewing and analyzing transactions made between Venezuelan clients and banks, according to David Schwartz, Florida International Bankers Association CEO, who spoke to Spanish language newspaper el Nuevo Herald. Banks are worried about violating U.S. Treasury Department sanctions against Maduro’s government and state oil company PDVSA, according to el Nuevo Herald.

Some of the country’s top officials have purchased condos and high-end real estate in South Florida, including at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach and multimillion dollar houses in Cocoplum. Some of those assets have been seized by the U.S. government as part of a money laundering investigation.

There are also a number of banks in South Florida with ties to Venezuela. Coral Gables-based Banesco USA is owned by the same investors as Venezuela-based Banesco Banco Universal, while Miami-based Eastern National Bank is partly owned by a Venezuelan bank regulator. It recently agreed to a consent order with the U.S. government for violating the Bank Secrecy Act. And until a recent spinoff when it went public, Coral Gables-based Mercantil Bank was majority owned by Mercantil Servicios Financieros, one of Venezuela’s largest banks. [el Nuevo Herald]  — Keith Larsen