Maldonado future F1 unsure as motorsports funding scandal erupts in Venezuela

Pastor Maldonado during a Williams F1 road-show in Caracas

Pastor Maldonado during a Williams F1 road-show in Caracas

Venezuelan officials have frozen all disbursements of hard currency to automobile and motorcycle racers who compete abroad as they investigate a corruption scandal, which may impact the future of Pastor Maldonado in Formula 1.

Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez told reporters that some motorsports 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 on the black market they fetch more than seven times the official exchange rate.

Chvez with Pastor Maldonado in 2011

Hugo Chavez with Pastor Maldonado in 2011

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.

Among the affected drivers is E.J. Viso, who apparently canceled his participation in this weekend’s IndyCar Series’ season finale in Fontana, California. Viso was listed as being “ill.”

He could not be located for comment. In an interview with the El Nacional published Wednesday he said that he welcomed the investigation. He is mostly sponsored by the state oil company PDVSA.

Pastor Maldonado future in F1 uncertain

Pastor Maldonado future in F1 uncertain

Benitez was quoted in the interview in Ultimas Noticias as saying that she had discovered that her signature had been forged on 60 disbursement files for hard currency.

Maldonado who is bank rolled by PDVSA is reportedly also under investigation which could impact the Williams F1 team who have a substantial sponsorship partnership with PDVSA  ensuring Maldonado’s seat with the British outfit.

Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela’s socialist-led government has had major difficulties managing the economy. These grew more acute after the March 5 death of longtime President Hugo Chavez, who won broad support with expensive anti-poverty programs. (AP)

Subbed by AJN.