28 May 2020
Criticized as a hypocrite, former Miami Congressman David Rivera claims his $50 million consulting contract with an oil company owned by Venezuela’s government wasn’t meant to defend embattled President Nicolás Maduro but rather to remove him from power.
However, the Miami Herald has learned that Rivera used some of his income from that contract to pay millions of dollars to a wealthy Venezuelan businessman closely connected to Maduro in an effort to prevent U.S. sanctions against his socialist regime.
Rivera, a Miami Republican known for his anti-communist attacks on Cuba, received $15 million from his 2017 contract with the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run oil company before it cut off the lobbying agreement with his business, Interamerican Consulting, Inc. Towards the end of that year, Rivera diverted about $4 million from his consulting firm to Venezuelan TV mogul Raúl Gorrín, according to several sources familiar with the payments.
Gorrín, who was also close to Maduro’s predecessor, the late President Hugo Chávez, collaborated with Rivera in aiding Maduro’s government to avoid a U.S. crackdown on Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, and its financial interests in the United States, those sources said.
In an unrelated corruption case, Gorrín is currently under indictment on bribery and money-laundering charges in Miami federal court based on allegations that he stole billions of dollars from the Venezuelan government. The feds have seized more than two dozen luxury real estate properties in Miami and New York from Gorrín, who resides in Venezuela and has been designated as a fugitive. His defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Rivera, who has survived both federal and state inquiries into his political career in the past, has been under federal investigation by the FBI over his Venezuelan government contract since the latter part of 2017. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office probe, which has focused on Rivera’s failure to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department as well as questions of bribery, fraud and money laundering, has stalled in recent years for reasons that are unclear.
Over that period, federal authorities in Miami and Houston have prosecuted dozens of Venezuela officials and business associates on charges of embezzling billions from Venezuela’s national oil company and moving their money into the U.S. banking system and real estate.
With the income from his Venezuelan government contract, Rivera made wire payments from his business, Interamerican Consulting, to Gorrín through a Miami company, Interglobal Yacht Management LLC, in which Gorrín had a financial interest before the Venezuelan tycoon was indicted in 2018, according to sources and public records. Interglobal’s president declined to comment Tuesday.
Rivera has insisted that Gorrín was not involved in his consulting firm’s contract with PDV USA, Inc., the American subsidiary controlled by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. The contract, which sources say was signed by a PDVSA board member, Guillermo Blanco, was ostensibly for “strategic consulting services” to improve the reputation of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. But those sources, who are not authorized to comment on the ongoing federal investigation in Miami, said Rivera’s public statements about his Venezuelan government contract don’t square with his actions.
Rivera, 54, did not respond to questions about how he used his income from the PDV USA contract. His defense attorney, Roy Kahn, said Tuesday he was unaware of any federal investigation into Rivera and his consulting business, adding that he could only go by what his client has told the news media — that he used his income from the contract to help the opposition party’s goal to topple Maduro’s government.
Rivera not only diverted money to Gorrín, sources said. The one-term congressman also used some income from his Venezuelan contract to pay about $3.5 million to the consulting business of Esther Nuhfer, a Miami fundraiser who had worked on Rivera’s past political campaigns. Nuhfer then transferred about $2 million of that amount from her business, Communications Solutions, to her personal bank account, according to the sources. Nuhfer did not respond to requests for comment.
By Jay Weaver and Antonio Maria Delgado, Miami Herald, 27 May 2020
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