Last Wednesday, June 13, the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (BNCR) closed all the bank accounts of the Alunasa company, owned by the Government of Venezuela, after the US Treasury Department issued an alert about an alleged money laundering operation through the company.
The BNCR, in addition, took the “management decision” to cease all commercial relations with Aluminios Nacionales S. A. (Alunasa), based in Esparza, Puntarenas, employing almost 300.
The rupture occurred after the U.S. concluded Diosdado Cabello, a strong man of the Nicolás Maduro regime, used Alunasa to legitimize, in Costa Rica – money coming from illegal activities – in December of 2016.
The alert from the U.S. was issued on May 18, 2018.
Ten days later, on May 28, the BNCR informed General Noel Martínez Rivero, president of Alunasa, that the accounts would be closed on June 13. This is stated in a letter signed by Jaime Murillo, an official of the Banco Nacional.
The bank argued that the company’s level of risk in the ‘client classification’ of clients with a risk of legitimization of capital (money laundering) and financing of terrorism.
Despite the closing of accounts, the company maintains a debt with the BNCR for a revolving line of credit granted in 2015, for up to US$2.5 million dollars. Carlos Peña, legal manager of Alunasa, confirmed the loan but did not specify the amount pending. The line of credit is The guaranteed by the raw material, aluminum, used in manufacturing, said Peña.
According to Peña, the company had, prior to the account closures, intended to extend the line of credit to US$6 million, with the objective of covering a debt with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) for the non-payment of worker-employer contributions. According to Peña the Venezuelan company owes the CCSS over US$1 million dollars.
Peña denied the US Treasury Dept allegations that the company laundered money through imports of raw material, by way of Panama.
Following the BNCR action, the BAC San Jose and Credomatic also closed accounts held by Alunasa and those of five company officials of Venezuelan nationality.
The company, trying to stay alive in the country, has asked for the support of legislators Carlos Ricardo Benavides and Franggi Nicolás, to intercede with the government of Carlos Alvarado to find a solution to the crisis of the company.
An action the company said it would accept is to operate under strict government controls.
Alunasa, a State company created in 1976 that was privatized in 1990, has decades of operaating in Costa Rica. In 2000, the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG) acquired 100% of the shares and, in 2015, became part of the National Aluminum Corporation of Venezuela.