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US indicts two Venezuelan ex-officials for money laundering

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Washington (AFP)

The US Treasury Department on Thursday indicted two former influential figures in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government on money laundering and corruption charges.

Minister of Electric Power Luis Motta Dominguez -- whom Maduro replaced following nationwide blackouts in March -- was charged along with Eustiquio Jose Lugo Gomez, a top official from the same ministry, according to a statement from Treasury.

"Rather than use their official positions to serve the Venezuelan people, Motta and Lugo illegally enriched themselves and contributed to the electricity crisis," the statement read.

Both men are accused of taking bribes in exchange for awarding contracts for electrical infrastructure equipment, some of which was incompatible with the network, "rendering them useless and contributing to the ongoing deterioration of the electrical system."

The two allegedly laundered their bribes through banks in south Florida.

The Treasury Department also slapped sanctions on Motta and Lugo, meaning all their US property and interests in property have been blocked.

However, the sanctions "need not be permanent," the statement said.

"Sanctions are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior," the Treasury statement read, meaning they could be lifted if these officials turn on the Maduro regime and take "concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order."

The United States opposes Maduro and recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president.

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