Venezuela Rejigs Crypto Team After Arrest of Joselit Ramírez

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  • Venezuela’s government has reorganized its crypto team following the alleged arrest of its head
  • Joselit Ramírez is said to have been arrested on charges of corruption, almost three years since U.S. authorities announced they were after him
  • Ramírez was not included in the rejigged crypto department

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro last week ordered the reorganization of his cryptocurrency department following the alleged detention of the country’s crypto chief, Joselit Ramírez. Ramírez, who has been on the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) most wanted list since 2020, was detained by Venezuelan police on charges of corruption on March 17 according to local media, leading to Maduro needing to reconfigure his department. Although the Ramírez wasn’t referenced in the reorganization, the fact that there is no place for the crypto chief suggests that his days could be numbered.

Ramírez Helped Plan and Launch Petro

Venezuela has been a key adopter of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for years given the hyperinflation in the country, leading to the country launching its own cryptocurrency, the Petro, in 2018. Ramírez was key in planning and launching the Petro due to his role as superintendent of crypto assets, but in June 2020 he had a $5 million bullseye painted on his back when HSI announced that it was seeking his arrest, describing him as “a Venezuelan government official accused of having deep political, social and economic ties to multiple alleged narcotics kingpins”.

Venezuelan crypto news outlet Cripto Noticias cited unofficial reports on social media networks and in the local media Últimas Noticias as its sources for the news that the police operation top arrest Ramírez centers on chargers of embezzlement and irregularities in proceedings involving the Supreme Court of Justice, the Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and some municipalities. While news on the operation itself has been shared by police, the names of those arrested haven’t, although Ramírez is strongly considered to be one of those detained.

HSI Will Seek Extradition

This news will be a fillip for HSI, who may try to arrange extradition of Ramírez once the Venezuelan authorities are done with him, with an extradition treaty being in place between the two countries. The reorganization of the Venezuelan government’s crypto team was revealed on Twitter, with the absence of Ramírez’s name suggesting that a spectacular fall from grace may be underway.