Venezuelan Parliament sustains that U.S. sanctions target corruption in PDVSA

corruption in PDVSA

The sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against the government of Nicolas Maduro have further escalated. The first measures date back to early 2018 and were an attempt to limit Venezuela’s capacity to sell its debt and U.S. assets. Now, however, Washington took the matter one step forward with new sanctions that seek to restrict financing and pressure Hugo Chavez’s successor to give up power. Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-run company that has been involved in several corruption cases, will be the first target of these enforcement actions.

This situation has put the government of Caracas is a predicament as, according to several experts, the company is the State’s petty cash box. PDVSA has been the means to feed a corruption scheme in the South American nation, according to opposition leaders.

“The sanctions are a blow for the government that has used PDVSA to foster its corruption,” said Senator Angel Alvarado, a member of the National Assembly’s Finance Commission. The MP indicated that the shortage of basic products (mainly food and medicine) and gasoline are the result of this corruption scheme.

Allegations of corruptions tarnish PDVSA’s management

Since the government of late president Hugo Chavez, many cases of the mismanagement in Venezuela’s oil business have been denounced by the opposition and international organizations. However, over the past year, the corruption accusations against PDVSA have been growing.

The rise of accusations began after the government itself joined the investigations, with the main focus being on Rafael Ramirez. This Petroleum Engineer was the head of the state-owned oil company during Chavez’s term. Nonetheless, he has distanced himself from Nicolas Maduro and became one of his most vocal critics.

Nearly a hundred former PDVSA executives have been accused. Some were jailed and others are fugitives of government authorities. Among those persecuted is Ramirez, who is abroad.

Andorra private bank in the eye of the hurricane

One of the most emblematic cases has been an investigation developed by a court in Andorra. The case revolves around an alleged corruption network in which PDVSA was used for asset laundering during the Chavez government. Former chavista officials and businessmen charged commissions of over 10 percent to companies – mostly Chinese companies – that later received lucrative contracts, some involving the state-run corporation. At least 14 Venezuelan citizens are involved in this case, as Andorran judge Canòlic Mingorance informed.

Approximately $16 billion were embezzled in this corruption scheme, according to investigations conducted by the country’s National Assembly.

Two of the accused, former vice-ministers of energy Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, were responsible for laundering about $2 billion; according to data from the Andorran investigation.

In December, the Venezuelan Prosecutor’s Office determined that around $4.2 billion were laundered through the Andorran private banks.

The scheme was developed back when Rafael Ramirez was the head of PDVSA and Oil Minister. It even involves several of his family members.

New corruption scheme emerges in PDVSA

New information came up this week regarding the Andorra money laundering scheme. Judicial authorities in the country also informed of another investigation related to money laundering.

Former PDVSA and government executives are being processed with charges related to this case after allegedly using the bank of Dubai to deposit the commissions charged for contracts with the State. Between 2009 and 2013, around $124 million entered the Emirates’ financial system through Banco Espiritu Santo.

The list of accused includes former vice-ministers of energy Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado; as well as former president of Bariven (a PDVSA subsidiary) Cesar Rincon Godoy, and the legal director of Electricidad de Caracas Luis de León.

According to the investigation’s file, the former Venezuelan executives received millions of dollars through banks in Switzerland and Dubai. To this end, they used from companies formed by Gestar, a trading company linked to Banco Espiritu Santo, which provided management and administration for fiduciary operations.

For more information, check Energía16

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