- Federal agencies are probing $100 million in assets allegedly laundered by a former Venezuelan oil minister, the Wall Street Journal said.
- Investigators want to know why Morgan Stanley and IAB were involved in handling possibly dirty money.
- Neither Morgan Stanley nor IAB, the largest online brokerage, is currently accused of wrongdoing.
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Morgan Stanley and Interactive Brokers are being investigated by several federal agencies, including the SEC and FBI, over $100 million in assets allegedly laundered by a former Venezuelan oil minister, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.
The report, citing government documents and people familiar with the matter, says the federal inquiry dates back almost a decade and was accelerated by a whistleblower complaint in 2019. Neither Morgan Stanley nor IAB, the largest online brokerage, is currently accused of wrongdoing.
The probe centers around two Venezuelan men who are cousins: businessman Luis Mariano Rodriguez Cabello and former oil minister Rafael Ramírez.
Rodriguez allegedly helped launder $2 billion in illicit funds on behalf of Ramírez, who is accused of stealing the money from Venezuela's state-owned oil company using inflated contracts.
Investigators want to know why Morgan Stanley and IAB were involved in handling Rodriguez's possibly dirty money, despite the US having designated Venezuela a high-risk money laundering country over a decade ago.
According to the Journal, Rodriguez wired $108 million to his Morgan Stanley account between 2014 and 2015. A Treasury Department report found that Morgan Stanley suspected the funds were part of a money-laundering scheme, but Rodriguez was still able to move the funds to a different bank in 2017.
Then, in 2018, an associate of Rodriguez moved the money to an IAB account, despite what investigators think were obvious red flags.
Morgan Stanley declined to comment to the Journal. IAB said it was "committed to compliance with all applicable laws and regulations" but couldn't comment on any specifics.