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Venezuela seizes 3.8M toys from company accused of money laundering, fraud

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela seizes 3.8M toys from company accused of money laundering, fraud
William Contreras, head of Venezuela's National Superintendence for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights, or SUNDDE, seen here over the weekend during a raid on a warehouse where tens of thousands of toys were confiscated, said the owner of the company accused of hoarding the toys also owns at least 21 companies that accused of money laundering and defrauding the government through nearly two dozen companies. Photo courtesy of SUNDDE

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Venezuelan authorities have seized 3.8 million toys from factories owned by Avi Kreisel, who is accused of money laundering and defrauding the government through nearly two dozen companies.

William Contreras, head of Venezuela's National Superintendence for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights, or SUNDDE, said Kreisel owned at least 21 companies that sought to defraud the socialist government.

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Kreisel is accused of crimes including illicit speculation, hoarding and economic destabilization -- "criminal acts because it also is against the rights of our children," Contreras said.

Kreisel is accused of attempting to hoard the toys to later sell them at inflated prices during the Christmas season. Contreras said Kreisel has hoarded toys since at least 2006, when 6.3 Venezuelan bolivars were worth $1. On Tuesday, 3,980 Venezuelan bolivars are worth $1 in the black market, DolarToday reported.

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Venezuelan authorities said the toys, which were seized in several warehouses, will be sold by the government at subsidized prices during the holiday season.

SUNDDE said Kreisel would attempt to illegally inflate the price of toys from 95 percent to 25,000 percent.

"Kreisel did not want to send toys to the shops as it should be during this time," Contreras said during a radio interview Monday. "Inflation has increased through illegal dynamics to destabilize the economy."

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Venezuela is going through an economic crisis exacerbated by a fall in oil prices, which has led to a shortage of basic goods -- including food and medicine. Goods are also unaffordable due to record-high inflation. Maduro has long-accused the United States of supporting the Venezuelan opposition and corporations as part of an "economic war" against his administration.

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