Guilty Plea Entered in PdVSA Corruption Investigation
21 Aug 2020

A former procurement officer at a Petróleos de Venezuela SA subsidiary has pleaded guilty to an alleged role in a bribery scheme and a former Citgo manager has been indicted on money-laundering charges in the latest developments in a sprawling U.S. probe into alleged corruption at Venezuela’s state-owned energy company.

Lennys Rangel, previously head of procurement at Petrocedeno SA, a PdVSA joint venture with two European oil companies, was accused of conspiring to launder millions in bribe payments through the U.S., including by purchasing a condominium in Miami, according to a complaint filed by prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Ms. Rangel pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S., according to a plea agreement filed last week.

Felipe Jaramillo, a lawyer who represents Ms. Rangel, declined to comment. Efforts to reach PdVSA for comment weren’t successful.

U.S. prosecutors alleged that bribes were paid to Ms. Rangel and other executives to help secure contracts for Petrocedeno, an oil producer, according to the complaint. The charge against Ms. Rangel was unsealed in March.

Her plea is among the latest in an investigation into alleged bribery at PdVSA. At least 27 people have been charged in related cases and most have pleaded guilty, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department said it had charged former Citgo Petroleum Corp. procurement officer Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio with one count of conspiracy to launder money and five counts of money laundering.

Mr. De Jongh worked in the Houston-based subsidiary of PdVSA’s special projects group and from about 2013 through at least 2019 agreed to accept more than $2.5 million in bribe payments from businessmen Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez and others, the Justice Department said.

In exchange, Mr. De Jongh helped the businessmen procure contracts with Citgo and PdVSA, the department said.

Dane Ball, a Smyser Kaplan & Veselka LLP lawyer representing Mr. De Jongh, declined to comment. He said Mr. De Jongh had pleaded not guilty.

Messrs. Gonzalez and Farias entered guilty pleas on alleged violations of U.S. antibribery laws and other charges in connection with the case, prosecutors said. Lawyers for Messrs. Gonzalez and Farias declined to comment.

By Mengqi Sun, The Wall Street Journal, 20 August 2020

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