CARACAS - Venezuela has uncovered at least $3 million in cash hidden under the false bottom of a Ford truck that arrived on a Lebanese-flagged ship from Miami. Anti-drug agents discovered the greenbacks after performing an X-ray scan on Sunday at the port of Cabello in the central state of Carabobo, state news agency AVN said in a statement on Tuesday. “Preliminary information shows that the money discovered is at least 3 million dollars in small denominations,” AVN said, adding that the state prosecutor’s office will charge the man “responsible” for the truck, Arquimedes Jose Rondon. It did not provide information about the potential owner of the dollars or say why the money was brought in. Strict currency controls implemented more than a decade ago have fomented a lucrative black market that has become a magnet for corruption.
The tumble in oil prices and Venezuelans’ hunger for U.S. dollars amid an economic crisis have exacerbated the imbalances recently, with the black market rate shooting up to around 175 bolivars per U.S. dollar, according to one widely used website. That is more than 27 times the strongest of three official exchange rates, which is 6.3 per dollar.