WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday that sanctions have been imposed upon several Venezuelan individuals and groups for alleged corruption.

The Treasury Department accused seven individuals and 23 entities involved in a corruption scheme designed to take advantage of the Government of Venezuela's currency exchange practices, generating more than 2.4 billion U.S. dollars in corrupt proceeds, according to a statement issued by the department.

"Venezuelan regime insiders have plundered billions of dollars from Venezuela while the Venezuelan people suffer," Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

All property and interests in property of sanctioned individuals and entities subject to or transiting U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them, said the Treasury.

The sanctions come right before Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's inauguration to a second term on Jan. 10.

The Trump administration has been conducting a hard-line policy against Venezuela.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the situation in Venezuela with his counterparts from Brazil and Peru during his Brazil trip early this month, calling for increased pressure on the Maduro regime to return democracy and prosperity to the Venezuelan people.

Last November, the United States imposed sanctions targeting Venezuela's gold exports, which are a significant source of money needed by the South American country to buy medicine and food.

Maduro responded that "Venezuela will never follow the orders of the U.S. empire and Venezuela will continue to produce gold."

Venezuela has been actively seeking to expand its cooperation with Russia on trade and security. A senior Venezuelan official said last November that the two countries would start cooperation in the agricultural and mining sectors.

Earlier December, a group of four Russian military aircraft -- two Tu-160 strategic bombers, a heavy An-124 military transport aircraft, and an Il-62 long-range aircraft -- landed in Venezuela after covering a distance of more than 10,000 km.

Pompeo characterized the landing as "two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer."

The Kremlin responded later the same day, calling Pompeo's remarks "undiplomatic and inappropriate."