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Busted: Racers' R587m cash scam

2013-10-21 08:57

MOTORSPORT FRAUDSTERS: Venezuelan sports minister Alejandra Benitez believes that motorsport competitors forged her signature to obtain millions. Image: VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT

CARACAS, Venezuela - Prosecutors in Venezuela are investigating six motorsport competitors for possible currency violations in a R587-million fraud case. The country’s sports minister believed the fraudsters forged her signature on official documents.

The attorney-general's office said investigators from  the Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (CADIVI) and country’s national intelligence agency were collecting "items of criminal interest" including documents and official seals from the Sports Ministry.

'RACER CLEARED FOR R646m'

Sports minister Alejandra Benitez said she discovered that her signature had been forged on more than 60 fraudulent requests. The fraudulent documents involved motorsports and had initially escaped close scrutiny because of the high costs involved in competing.

Benitez said: "There was one racer who, in a year and half, was approved for R646-million. Just two of these drivers were claiming in a year what it costs us to take the whole team of more than 600 athletes (to an event)."

Interior minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said: "We have six people detained. They will be tried for defrauding the state of about R587-million."

The unnamed competitors are believed to be involved in various disciplines including motocross.

Benitez said: "The case is in the hands of the security forces. If any official (from the ministry) is involved, they will have to pay."

BLACK MARKET DOLLARS


A decade of currency controls has led to a shortage of dollars and huge profits for those who can access greenbacks and then resell them on the black market.

Travelers can exchange up to $3000 a year by applying to the state currency board Cadiva and members of national sports teams representing the country abroad have been allowed to claim more.

Ordinary travelers now face random checks by officials at Venezuela's main international airport to see if their documents match their requests for Cadiva dollars.

Driven by black market profits, "currency tourism" has become yet another headache for the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The economy is beset by shortages of consumer goods, and annual inflation hit almost 50% in September 2013.

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Read more on:    venezuela  |  motorsport  |  fraud

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