A probe of Venezuelan Bribery Scandal Widens With Latest Charges
The former president of a unit of Petroleos de Venezuela SA and two European wealth managers were charged with money laundering as a U.S. probe into a $1 billion bribery scheme expands.
The three charged are Javier Alvarado Ochoa, a Venezuelan citizen and former president of PDVSA purchasing unit Bariven, and asset managers Daisy Teresa Rafoi Bleuler, a Swiss citizen, and Paulo Jorge da Costa Casqueiro Murta, a citizen of Switzerland and Portugal, according to an indictment unsealed Friday in federal court in Houston. They were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering as well.
The indictment expands the Justice Department’s crackdown on corruption that has battered Venezuela as it goes through one of the worst economic crises in its history. U.S. prosecutors say professional launderers labored for years to conceal the movement of money stolen through bribery and fraud from PDVSA, the nation’s main source of income and foreign currency. Venezuela, once one of the shining stars of Latin America and a thriving member of OPEC, faces one of the world’s worst episodes of hyperinflation.
PDVSA didn’t immediately return a call and email seeking comment on the charges. The federal courts’ online database didn’t list lawyers for Alvarado, Rafoi or Murta.
Alvarado allegedly took bribes from Venezuelan businessmen Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas. The two sought new contracts with PDVSA, as well as payment on outstanding bills for earlier work, and kicked back 10% of whatever they got, prosecutors say.