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U.S. prosecutors believe Venezuela’s former oil czar received bribes as part of a major graft scheme that allegedly took
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gS097wenJw


U.S. prosecutors believe Venezuela’s former oil czar received bribes as part of a major graft scheme that allegedly took place in the OPEC nation’s oil industry, an American official familiar with the probe said.

Rafael Ramirez, who was one of Venezuela’s most powerful officials until he quit as the country’s U.N. ambassador in December, was named as a bribe recipient although not charged in an indictment against five other former senior officials that was partially unsealed Monday.

In the indictment, prosecutors in Houston allege two of the charged individuals told businessmen that proceeds from bribe payments they made in exchange for quick payments and contracts with Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA would be shared with a senior Venezuelan official, identified in the unsealed portion as “Official B.”

That unidentified Venezuelan politician is Ramirez, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The official agreed to talk about the case only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

In 2016, Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly said $11 billion went missing at PDVSA in the 2004-2014 period, when Ramirez was in charge of the company. In 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department accused a bank in Andorra of laundering some $2 billion stolen from PDVSA.


Ramirez in the past has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the U.S. probe into PDVSA as a politically motivated attempt to undermine President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government. After resigning his U.N. post, Ramirez left the United States for an undisclosed location, and he did not immediately respond to a request Monday seeking comment.

Prosecutors in the U.S. as well as Venezuela have been slowly closing in on his inner circle.

http://calgaryherald.com/pmn/business-pm...c07b088ece

Ramirez in the past has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the U.S. probe into PDVSA as a politically motivated attempt to undermine President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government. After resigning his U.N. post, Ramirez left the United States for an undisclosed location, and he did not immediately respond to a request Monday seeking comment.

Prosecutors in the U.S. as well as Venezuela have been slowly closing in on his inner circle.

Among those charged Monday was PDVSA's former chief of corporate security, Rafael Reiter, who frequently appeared alongside Ramirez in public. Another was a former deputy energy minister, Nervis Villalobos, who stood in as head of PDVSA when Ramirez was on official business abroad. Both Reiter and Villalobos were arrested in Spain in October on U.S. warrants and are pending extradition along with a third former official, Luis Carlos de Leon.

Separately, Ramirez is also the target of a criminal investigation in Venezuela for taking a cut of oil contracts brokered by associates including his cousin, Diego Salazar, who was arrested in December. Ramirez has called the Venezuelan probe retaliation for his decision to break with Maduro, who he has accused of running Venezuela's once-thriving oil industry into the ground and abandoning the socialist ideals of the late Hugo Chavez.

Much of the evidence gathered by U.S. prosecutors stems from a case in Houston against two Venezuelan businessmen residing in the United States, Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera, who in 2015 were charged with violating the foreign corrupt practices act by paying bribes in exchange for contracts to build electricity generators for PDVSA at a time Venezuela was suffering widespread power outages. They are among 10 individuals and officials who have so far pleaded guilty in connection to the U.S. probes into corruption at PDVSA.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wire...e-53028714

There is so much corruption in the world. -T
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