Police investigators on Tuesday extracted data from the servers of the private wealth management firm allegedly at the centre of the Malta-Venezuela money laundering scandal.

Sources said investigators seized servers containing data on wire transfers and other contentious material from Portmann Capital Management, the Sliema-based investment firm that reportedly helped launder $1.2 billion in funds looted from Venezuela’s State fuel company.

The story hit the international headlines in recent weeks after a criminal complaint, filed in the courts of Miami last month, alleged that huge sums of money were syphoned from the oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers.Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers.

The complex money-laundering scheme is believed to involve a list of Venezuelan elites, possibly even the country’s President Nicolás Maduro.

Some of the funds, amounting to about €511 million, were allegedly wired to the Maltese firm between late 2014 and early 2015.

The warrant authorising the extraction of the data was signed by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who conducted the Egrant inquiry, about two weeks ago, the sources said.

A team of specialised officers, headed by Police Superintendent Antonovitch Muscat, from the economic crimes unit, spent several hours in the firm’s Tower Road offices.

READ - ‘Portmann heard of alleged Venezuelan racket from media’

According to the sources, the extraction had been requested by the Malta Financial Services Authority, which will be among those given access to the sensitive data lifted. The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit is also expected to be given access as part of an ongoing investigation.

Police sources said that while a request had not yet been made by US investigators to view the data it was believed this was “only a matter of time”.

“There will certainly be a request for access to the information from the US. There has been huge interest in this case from their part and we have been collaborating with them,” the sources noted.

The Times of Malta has reported that Maltese police officers had been working with US federal agents from the Homeland Security Department for nearly two years on the case.

This is not the first time the Maltese firm has been investigated. The FIAU recently found it had committed a series of anti-money laundering breaches and, in 2016, the financial services watchdog had found out that the company had processed in excess of €550 million in payments without authorisation.

The US federal probe – Operation Money Flight – was initially focused on efforts to launder part of a $78 million nest egg. The investigation, however, grew beyond this racket and eventually uncovered a much broader series of crimes.

ivan.martin@timesofmalta.com

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