A former PDVSA finance executive admitted he accepted $17 million in bribes as part of a wider embezzlement scheme that also incriminates a French oil firm and a Russian bank, according to US federal prosecutors.
Abraham Ortega admitted accepting bribes in a bid to launder $12 million of illegal payments – a charge he pleaded guilty to.
The US has increased its investigations into the crisis-stricken country’s officials and could extend these to the role of foreign firms in graft probes that have been predominantly focused on the Venezuelan nation.
A statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said: “Ortega admitted that he and his co-defendant laundered $12 million through a sophisticated false-investment scheme,” which is describes as a “billion-dollar international scheme to launder funds embezzled from PDVSA.”
The statement, that did not name either firm, said Ortega accepted $5 million from a French oil company and from a Russian bank in exchange for gaining “priority access” to funds to joint ventures which they were partners with PDVSA in.
More than a dozen people have also pleaded guilty in the Justice Department’s investigation into bribery at the Venezuelan oil giant.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government has said the investigations are politically motivated and are part of the US Government’s plans to undermine his government through the use of financial sanctions.