CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan officials have frozen all disbursements of hard currency to automobile and motorcycle racers who compete abroad as they investigate a corruption scandal.
Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez told reporters Friday that some motor sports athletes have obtained hard currency for "activities that were either fictitious or overpriced."
Because Venezuela's bolivar currency does not trade on global markets, Venezuelan businesses and individuals depend upon the state agency called Cadivi to obtain dollars, euros and other freely traded currencies.
Dollars have become so scarce in this oil-rich nation plagued by economic woes, including one of the world's highest inflation rates, that they fetch on the black market more than seven times the official exchange rate.
The sports currency scandal is only the latest involving the gaming of Venezuela's currency regime. One involves buying up airline tickets for travel abroad, which lets Venezuelans withdraw $3,000 a year at the official rate.
Sports Minister Alejandra Benitez said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that an initial investigation into the Cadivi disbursements found that one driver got $66 million. She did not name the driver.
She noted that more than 98 percent of her budget for foreign competitions goes to motor sports.
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