Latin America
© AP Photo/ Manuel Balce Ceneta

US Envoy Tried to Freeze Made-Up Venezuelan Accounts in Swiss Banks in Prank

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United States' Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams became the target of Vladimir 'Vovan' Kuznetsov and Alexei 'Lexus' Stolyarov, a pair of Russian comedians known for their prank phone calls to politicians from around the world.

The pranksters told Sputnik they initiated the call with Abrams while posing as the President of the Swiss Confederation and the Head of the Department of Finance Ueli Maurer. The pranksters said they had initiated the call on 19 February, telling Abrams that there are large sums of money in Swiss banks on accounts that belong to members of Venezuela’s government and the Swiss government cannot do anything with them because there is no law violation.

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An interlocutor said that these assets should be frozen on the phone call recorded by the pranksters. He also told the pranksters that there is a risk that any Swiss bank that handles these assets could be sued by Guaido’s “future government” as it would be considered an accessory in the looting of Venezuelan finances.

The pranksters requested documentation from Abrams to freeze the assets, which he then sent. The documents featured 100 Venezuelan citizens, including Venezuelan president Maduro and members of his government. The pranksters added that they were also contacted by Carlos Vecchio, who presented himself as a member of Guaido’s opposition and wrote an email to the pranksters from Yale University servers.

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A response by Elliott Abrams to pranksters Vladimir 'Vovan' Kuznetsov and Alexei 'Lexus' Stolyarov under disguise of the President of the Swiss Confederation and the Head of the Department of Finance Ueli Maurer

 

Kuznetsov and Stolyarov told Russia 24 that after receiving the email from Vecchio they made up a list of 20 people from the names sent by Abrams and presented it as a “preliminary summary data on illegal and suspicious bank accounts in Switzerland.” They also included other people, including fake names and celebrities, like Russian attorney Mark Feygin and Kazakhstan’s Tender First Fund Nurlan Baidilda Ltd. They required Vecchio to make the information on the “Venezuelan money” in Baidilda’s fund public in order to start the process of freezing the assets.

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Carlos Vecchio letter to to the pranksters
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Carlos Vecchio's letter to to the pranksters

The Venezuelan representative agreed and on 25 February told Bloomberg that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro may hold millions of dollars of state money in accounts managed by Fund Nurlan Baidilda Ltd. He later sent the article to the pranksters as a piece of evidence and later even requested, according to the email screenshots from Kuznetsov and Stolyarov, to seize the plane of Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company that had recently landed in Zurich.

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Carlos Vecchio tweets on the “Venezuelan money” in Baidilda’s fund
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The Bloomberg article Carlos Vecchio sent to the pranksters as a piece of evidence
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Carlos Vecchio asks pranksters to arrest the PDVSA plane

The pranksters also held one more conversation with Abrams in March, according to Russia 24, where the Special Representative told them that the US is not planning military intervention in Venezuela, but would like to “make the Venezuelan military nervous,” regarding possible guarantees ruling out military threats from the US to be “a tactical mistake.” However, according to the phone call, Abrams said that the main sources of leverage against the Venezuelan government are still financial, economic and diplomatic pressure.