Canada 'firmly condemns' detention of 2 Venezuelan opposition leaders –

Goldman’s Compliance Staff Is Reviewing Venezuela Trade

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s compliance and legal staff are reviewing the purchase of $2.8 billion in discounted Venezuela bonds after the deal sparked protests and calls for a legislative probe, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The review is focusing on how the process can be improved, the person said, asking not to be identified because the decision hasn’t been announced publicly.

Some Venezuelan lawmakers said the purchase, made by Goldman Sachs’s asset-management unit, lends support to President Nicolas Maduro as he grapples with accusations of human-rights violations. The nation’s legislature vowed to investigate the deal and whether paying back the bonds is in the country’s best interest. The National Assembly approved a motion Tuesday asking the U.S. Congress to examine the transaction.

Goldman Sachs used a broker to buy the securities, issued in 2014 by the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and had no interaction with the government, the New York-based firm said in a statement Monday. Venezuela’s opposition leaders, which have been urging Wall Street banks not to throw a financial lifeline to Maduro, allege that the purchase represents an infusion of cash to the government.

“We agree that life there has to get better,” Goldman Sachs said in its statement. “We made the investment in part because we believe it will.”

Andrew Williams, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment on the internal review beyond the Monday statement, which also said the firm recognizes “the situation is complex and evolving and that Venezuela is in crisis.”

Read more: Goldman ignites Venezuela’s ‘Hunger Bonds’ movement

Eric Lane and Tim O’Neill, who run Goldman Sachs’s investment-management division, weren’t briefed on the trade until after it was completed, the person said. The firm’s business-standards committee, set up by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein in 2010 after the financial crisis, didn’t review the trades either, and neither did the investment-management unit’s own standards committee, the person said. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday that the purchase wasn’t vetted by senior executives.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s portfolio managers aren’t typically required or expected to get pre-approval from senior managers for their investments. There is a system in place to trigger a review in cases where the purchase might carry heightened reputational risk for the firm. That process wasn’t used in the Venezuela transaction, the person said.

With a severely constrained supply of cash, Maduro has kept up bond payments while sharply curtailing imports of food, medicine and other basic goods. Anti-government protests have left dozens killed over the past two months.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, also has been in contact with financial institutions, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican said. Rubio is encouraging them “to respect the will of the Venezuelan people and not to give a lifeline to the imploding Maduro regime,” she said.

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Venezuela’s Vote Turnout Was Manipulated, Election Company Reports

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Turnout figures in Venezuelas Constitutional Assembly election were manipulated up by least 1 million votes, Smartmatic, a company which has worked with Venezuela since 2004 on its voting system, said on Wednesday.

We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said at a news briefing in London.

Mugica said Smartmatic, which has provided electronic voting technology for elections around the world, was able to detect the overstated officially announced turnout because of Venezuelas automated election system.

We estimate the difference between the actual participation and the one announced by authorities is at least 1 million votes, he said.

Mugica declined to directly answer whether the manipulated turnout numbers changed the result of the election, in which authorities said 8.1 million people voted.

The election of the legislative super-body has been decried by critics as illegitimate and designed to give the unpopular government of President Nicolas Maduro powers to rewrite the constitution and sideline the opposition-led congress.

Mugica said the authorities in Venezuela would likely not be sympathetic to his comments and that he had not yet passed the evidence to the Venezuelas electoral council.

The National Elections Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to internal electoral council data previously reviewed by Reuters, only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30 p.m. in Venezuelas election on Sunday.

Venezuelan authorities did not respond to a request for comment on that reviewed data. (Reporting by Cassandra Garrison, writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Mueller Uses Classic Prosecution Playbook Despite Trump Warnings

The former FBI director leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia is taking a page from the playbook federal prosecutors have used for decades in criminal investigations, from white-collar fraud to mob racketeering:

Follow the money. Start small and work up. See who will “flip” and testify against higher-ups by pursuing charges such as tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

While Trump’s legal team doesn’t anticipate that Mueller will violate his mandate, it’s prepared to take action if he does, Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said in an interview. Matters that would be out of bounds include looking at Trump’s taxes or real-estate transactions of the president or his family members, Sekulow said.

“If we felt there was an issue that developed that was outside the scope of legitimate inquiry we would, in normal course, file our objections with the special counsel," Sekulow said. “If we weren’t satisfied with the resolution we would look at going through the appropriate channels at the Department of Justice."

People ‘Speculating’

Sekulow also said it’s “fundamentally incorrect” to assume that Mueller is conducting a mob-style investigation when it comes to Trump and his family members, at least based on what he’s seen to date.

"People are speculating on things without a full grasp of the nature of what’s taking place," he said.

Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday” this month that “we don’t engage in fishing expeditions” and Mueller needs to come to him for approval to investigate any potential crimes beyond his mandate. Mueller and Rosenstein declined to comment for this story, according to their aides.

Those who have worked with Mueller said he knows how to build a case piece-by-piece.

"Mueller is no dummy," said William Mateja, a former federal prosecutor who investigated white-collar crime and served at the Justice Department when Mueller was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "You use crimes like money laundering and tax evasion to get cooperation from people who might be in the know."

Among the experienced prosecutors he’s recruited in that effort is Andrew Weissmann, who worked in the 1990s to dismantle crime families on racketeering charges. He squeezed lower-level mobsters to become cooperating witnesses, a tactic that eventually led to the conviction of Genovese crime boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante for racketeering in 1997. Later, Weissmann led the Enron Task Force that investigated and prosecute cases involving the defunct Houston energy trader.

Read More: Mueller’s Dream Team for the Trump-Russia Probe

Greg Andres, another team member, is a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division who took down Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino. He also prosecuted former Credit Suisse Group AG broker Eric Butler for securities fraud. Butler was convicted in 2009.

To be sure, Mueller’s team is using 21st century technology to investigate last year’s hacking into Democratic Party computers and moves to “weaponize” social media to influence voters.

But it’s also using time-tested methods, casting a wide net to find out "who are the true power players" with knowledge of what was happening in Trump’s campaign and during his transition to the White House, said Ronald Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

"The core part of Robert Mueller’s mission is to understand whether people associated with the campaign were associated with Russians determined to influence the election results," said Hosko, who’s now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

Trump Buildings

The investigation is examining Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial New York hotel development with Russian associates and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, Bloomberg News reported last month. Sekulow said he hasn’t seen any evidence the investigation is looking into Trump’s real-estate transactions.

Trump associates who are central figures in Mueller’s investigation include Manafort, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, who was ousted as national security adviser, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation. Mueller is now in talks with the White House to interview current and former administration officials, including recently departed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the New York Times reported.

"They’re looking at where are various people getting money from, and they’re going to try to figure out not only where did it come from, but who can they connect it to," said Mateja, now a shareholder at the law firm of Polsinelli PC. "Can they connect it to Donald Trump?"

What’s not known publicly yet is whether any of those under investigation are cooperating to help Mueller build a case, Hosko said.

Pressure to Act

Mueller’s investigation is likely to continue through next year if not longer, increasing pressure on him to announce indictments against those who committed relatively small offenses and who aren’t needed to further the investigation, according to Hosko. “The longer it drags out, the louder the complaints will get that there’s nothing that’s been proven,” he said.

The July raid on the home of Manafort, whose financial dealings and previous work for a Russian-backed party in Ukraine have come under scrutiny, was seen as an effort to get him to give up any damaging information he might have on Trump or others.

Manafort changed lawyers after the raid, announcing he would hire Miller & Chevalier, which specializes in international tax law and fraud. The move was made because Mueller’s investigation of Manafort appears to be moving beyond collusion with Russia to focus on potential tax violations, said a person familiar with the matter.

John Dowd, another Trump lawyer, called the raid a "gross abuse of the judicial process" for the sake of "shock value" — another indication that the Trump team is chafing increasingly at Mueller’s hard-charging approach.

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