April 5, 2018 / 9:32 PM / 4 months ago

Venezuela cuts commercial ties with Panama firms, officials

CARACAS, April 5 (Reuters) - Venezuela said on Thursday it was halting commercial relations with Panamanian officials and companies including airline Copa for alleged involvement in money laundering, days after Panama accused President Nicolas Maduro of similar activities.

The resolution names Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and nearly two dozen Cabinet ministers and top-ranking officials, adding that Panama's financial system had been used by Venezuelan nationals involved in acts of corruption.

The individuals named in the resolution "present an imminent risk to the (Venezuelan) financial system, the stability of commerce in the country, and the sovereignty and economic independence of the Venezuelan people," said the resolution, which was read out on state television.

The statement did not detail whether the move would halt flights by Copa, which is one of the primary providers of foreign flights following the deep reduction in airline service out of Venezuela.

Copa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An official at the Panamanian presidency said there were no representatives available to comment on the issue.

Panama's economy and finance ministry last month issued an advisory saying that Maduro and some 50 Venezuelan nationals are considered "high risk" for laundering money and financing terrorism.

Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab and elections council President Tibisay Lucena were also named in the advisory along with Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello, the elder brother of late president Hugo Chavez, and 16 firms in Venezuela.

The crisis-stricken OPEC nation has been hit with sanctions by Canada, the United States as well as a number of other countries over issues ranging from human rights violations to corruption and drug trafficking.

Maduro says the country is victim of an "economic war" led by his adversaries with the help of Washington, and says the sanctions are part of efforts by foreign countries to undermine his government. (Reporting by Caracas newsroom Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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