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Venezuela files WTO challenge over US sanctions

Venezuela filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization challenging U.S. sanctions against the oil-rich nation, targeting U.S. measures relating to Venezuelan goods, public debt and digital currency.

Venezuela could ask the WTO to adjudicate if the U.S. fails to answer Venezuela's complaint within 60 days.

This comes the same day the U.S. Treasury Department announced fresh sanctions against several Venezuela individuals and companies allegedly involved in a corrupt currency exchange network scheme, including media mogul Raul Antonio Gorrin Belisario and former treasurer Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen.

Gorrin bribed the Venezuelan Treasury Office to conduct illegal foreign exchange operations, according to the U.S. Treasury.

The sanctions targeted seven people including Gorrin's business partner and brother-in-law Gustavo Adolfo Perdomo Rosales, and Gorrin's and Perdomo's wives. Also sanctioned was Diaz's husband.

Gorrin is the billionaire owner of news network Globovision.

The U.S. has been imposing sanctions against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's government in recent months. The latest sanctions are applicable to those who benefited from the corrupt system within the Venezuelan Treasury since 2008, the U.S. Treasury said.

A U.S. court sentenced Alejandro Andrade, Venezuela's treasurer before Diaz, in November 2018 to 10 years in prison for accepting more than $1 billion in bribes. Gorrin was indicted by the U.S. in August 2018 for conspiring to bribe Venezuelan officials and commit money laundering by hiding embezzled government funds, totaling more than $1 billion, in Florida and New York.

The currency scheme, which started in 2008, generated more than $2.4 billion in "corrupt proceeds," which were invested in domestic and international property, aircraft, yachts, horses and other luxury goods, the Treasury Department said.

In addition to the sanctioned individuals, the U.S. Treasury also targeted 23 entities owned or controlled by Gorrin, Perdomo and their wives, including Globovision Tele CA, for their roles in the bribery scheme.

The Treasury said Globovision will be allowed to carry out certain transactions and activities for a year. A permanent sanctions relief will be granted once Gorrin and Perdomo divest their holdings and relinquish control of the network.