U.S. Charges 2 With Corruption Linked to Venezuelan Oil Company


A Petróleos de Venezuela filling station in Caracas. United States officials have arrested two men suspected of running a “fraudulent and corrupt scheme” to secure contracts from the company.

Marco Bello/Reuters

LIMA, Peru — The federal authorities in the United States have arrested two businessmen on money-laundering and corruption charges in connection with energy contracts with Venezuela’s government-operated oil company, a Justice Department official said Monday.

The men, Roberto Rincón, 55, and Abraham Shiera, 52, were arrested in the United States last Wednesday on charges “related to an alleged fraudulent and corrupt scheme to secure energy contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela,” which is also known as PDVSA, said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington.

Mr. Rincón, who was arrested in Texas, where he lives, and Mr. Shiera, arrested in his home state, Florida, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law prohibits American businesses or individuals from bribing government officials in other countries to obtain business there. The two men were also charged with wire fraud and money laundering. The Justice Department said both are citizens of Venezuela.

The arrests are the latest in a string of corruption and drug trafficking charges involving PDVSA and other Venezuelan government institutions or current and former officials.

In March, the Treasury Department accused a bank in Andorra of laundering more than $4 billion from Venezuela. At least half of that amount was linked to PDVSA, according to American officials.

This month, the commander of Venezuela’s National Guard, who is also a former interior minister and chief the country’s drug police, was said to be facing federal narcotics charges in New York. A person with knowledge of that case said that the official, Néstor Reverol, had been charged in an indictment that is expected to be unsealed soon. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of a federal case still under seal, said Mr. Reverol was alleged to have been on the payroll of Colombian cocaine traffickers and to have helped them avoid law enforcement while they moved their drugs through Venezuela.

Venezuela’s governing United Socialist Party was handed a major defeat in congressional elections this month. The vote was seen as an expression of unhappiness over the country’s economy. But many voters there also cited anger at widespread corruption.

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