EFECaracas

The US government and several non-governmental organizations operating in Venezuela are behind an attack on the financial system executed by withdrawing currency from the money supply, Interior, Justice and Peace Minister Nestor Reverol said Monday.

"These operations have also been staged in Iraq and Libya, in which they attack the currency and create a crisis to seek the overthrow of the government," Reverol said.

An investigation is being conducted of the suspected removal from Venezuela of large amounts of cash, with the sum possibly reaching more than 300 billion bolivars (about $447 million at the current exchange rate), the minister said.

Currency is being extracted from the country by NGOs "hired by the US Treasury Department and the US government with the goal of taking money out of the territory and strangling the national financial system," Reverol said.

The NGOs, according to the official, hire criminal organizations to move 100-bolivar bills, the largest bill in circulation now, to Colombia and from there to other countries, such as Switzerland, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic, where the money is stored in large warehouses.

Reverol said the operation's goal was to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro's administration and amounted to "financing terrorism."

"These are operations being carried out by organized crime groups and will be punished as such," the interior minister said.

On Sunday, Maduro ordered the central bank to withdraw all 100-bolivar bills from circulation to stop Colombian organized crime groups supposedly stockpiling currency to destabilize the economy.

The president said during his weekly show, "En contacto con Maduro" (In Contact with Maduro), that some nationally chartered banks were involved in the effort to destabilize the economy.

"I have decided to remove 100-bolivar bills from circulation in the next 72 hours and to provide an appropriate period of time for those who possess bills of 100 bolivars to report them to public banks and to the Venezuelan Central Bank," the president said.

Last week, the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) said it would introduce new bills in larger denominations to address a sharp currency devaluation caused by an inflation rate that some economists peg at between 10,000 percent and 16,000 percent since the last currency overhaul in 2008.

Venezuela's new currency will go into circulation on Dec. 15 in denominations of 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500 bolivares, with 100-, 50- and 10-bolivar coins, the BCV said.