Venezuelan Authorities Question Bank President over Cyber Attacks

Víctor Vargas, head of Banco de Occidental Descuento, was questioned on Sunday, while Venezuelan press reports that Credbank shareholder Roberto Enrique Smith Perera has fled to Miami. 

By Jeanette Charles
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BOD President Victor Vargas (BOD).
BOD President Victor Vargas (BOD).

El Progreso, December 13th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan authorities interrogated Banco de Occidental Descuento (BOD) president Víctor Vargas Sunday morning for his alleged involvement in the cyber attacks on digital banking systems Friday December 2nd.

According to Venezuelan news agencies, the banking director was intercepted upon his arrival at the Simón Boívar International Airport in Maiquetía in Vargas state but was released later the same day after being questioned by National Bolivarian Investigation Service (SEBIN) director, Gustavo González López. 

The reports claim that Vargas was allegedly detained and interrogated regarding the Credicard banking system which crashed Friday Dec 2nd causing chaos and inhabilitating the majority of debit and credit card payments across the country. Vargas’ father-in-law, Luis Alfonso Borbón, was also taken in for questioning by SEBIN authorities upon their arrival in Venezuela. 

Although Vargas has since confirmed that he participated in an interview with SEBIN, he appeared to refute accounts that he was forcibly detained in an internal memo to BOD staff on Monday. 

“[I was] called on by the SEBIN, to arrive through my own means, at an interview at the director’s office,” Vargas expressed in an official BOD statement. Vargas referred to the encounter with SEBIN’s authorities as “cordial”.

“We discussed the financial system’s current situation. Credicard Consortium and the events that occurred December 2nd,” he affirmed. 

“For those that are not aware of the related case with Credicard, it concerns a business that offers services for credit payments through electronic sale points for 22 banks. This technological platform presented difficulties last Friday December 2nd; due to a saturation of the system, the result of an increase in operations,” Vargas defended.

Recent investigations point to BOD as the bank associated with Credicard’s failure earlier this month.

According BOD’s statement, the bank owns 33% of Credicard’s shares. Banco de Venezuela and Bancaribe likewise own 33% each of Credicard’s additional shares. 

Vargas’ wealth is calculated at more than $USD 1 billion. 

Six people were also arrested on December 2nd identified as those directly responsible for Credicard’s system crash that same day.

Shareholder and Popular Will (VP) party politician Roberto Enrique Smith Perera, who fled the country following the incident, has also been identified by authorities as responsible for the failures in Credicard’s systems. The other six individuals remain detained.

Smith previously served as Minister of Transportation and Communications, Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union and held additional posts during Carlos Andrés Pérez’s presidency throughout the ‘90s. He also created the Venezuelan National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL).

He received his Master’s degree and Ph.D at Harvard University and has run for Vargas state’s gubernatorial position.

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