Washington (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 companies linked to Colombian businessman Alex Nain Saab Moran, an associate of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The move is the latest US escalation of sanctions targeting the inner circle of Maduro, who is grappling with a political and economic crisis that the United Nations says has left a quarter of Venezuela's 30 million people in need of humanitarian aid.
The sanctions announced on Tuesday by the US Treasury Department target Saab, his two brothers Amir and Luis, Saab's business partner Alvaro Pulido, and Pulido's son, David Enrique Rubio Gonzalez.
They were accused of helping the Maduro regime "corruptly profit from imports of food aid and distribution in Venezuela."
Saab, Alvaro Pulido and several others were previously sanctioned by the Treasury Department in July for running an alleged "corruption network" that profited from emergency food imports.
Sixteen companies owned or controlled by Saab and the other men were also sanctioned -- one in Italy, four in Panama and 11 in Colombia.
"This action increases pressure on Alex Saab and his network, which have profited off the hunger of the Venezuelan people and facilitate systemic corruption in Venezuela," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
"Treasury will continue to target those who corruptly profit at the expense of the Venezuelan people," Mnuchin said.
The sanctions prevent Saab, the other individuals and the companies from accessing the US financial system or doing business in the United States.