US authorities have accused two individuals of participating in a $1 billion bribery scheme to secure contracts with Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA. They also linked one of these men to a former senior Venezuelan military intelligence official wanted for alleged cocaine trafficking. The charges relate to what the US DOJ dubbed a fraudulent and corrupt scheme to secure energy contracts from PDVSA.”
According to an order signed on December 19 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson, Venezuelan national Roberto Rincon-Fernandez, president of Texas-based oilfield supply company Tradequip Services & Marine, was ordered held without bail on charges of conspiring to launder money and contravening the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with PDVSA. He was arrested on December 16.
Abraham Jose Shiera-Bastidas, a Venezuelan residing in Florida, was jailed in Miami on the same charges. The bribes included travel, hotel reservations, meals, monetary gifts, car rental, a yacht, liquor, a $14,000 stay at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach, and other gifts to secure “business on behalf of Rincon’s and Shiera’s companies,” according to the joint indictment filed in Miami.
In Judge Johnson’s order to keep Rincon in jail, she wrote that he “has significant assets which could fund a fugitive life-style” and there is a “serious risk” he could flee.
Rincon, with homes in Aruba, Spain, and The Woodlands, Texas, is reportedly a close personal friend of retired Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal. The latter was arrested in Aruba while aboard Rincon’s private aircraft and later released, according to the order. Carvajal is wanted in the U.S. for drug trafficking. According to Johnson’s order, Aruba has refused to extradite him.
Rincon has been residing in the Houston area for around a decade, has 108 bank accounts, and owns a $5 million house (pictured below), Judge Johnson wrote. Between 2009 and 2014, the indictment claims that over $1 billion of bribes was traced- with $750 million of this was traced to Rincon.
The judge wrote that Rincon “has the means to flee anywhere and support himself for the rest of his life.” El Pitazo reports that Rincón was in the process of moving permanently to Spain, and that the U.S. probe that just nabbed him had begun in 2011.
In all the alleged schemes bribes were paid to PDVSA officials to secure Rincon-affiliated companies on a short list entitled to bid for contracts. In some cases, he hid his control of the firms so that PDVSA officials would not know that all bidders were controlled by him, the court papers say.