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Former PDVSA finance chief cops plea after taking $5 million in bribes

The former executive director of financial planning at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a $1.2 billion embezzlement scheme.

Abraham Edgardo Ortega, 51, a Venezuelan national, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to one count of a money laundering conspiracy.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced January 9.

Ortega admitted taking $5 million in bribes to give priority loan status to a French company and a Russian bank. Both were minority shareholders in joint ventures with Petroleos de Venezuela SA or PDVSA.

The bribe money came from $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA.

Including Ortega, the DOJ has announced guilty pleas by 16 individuals in connection with the investigation into PDVSA bribery.

Last week a former banker at Julilus Baer Group was jailed 10 years for his role in the embezzlement and money-laundering scheme. Matthias Krull, 44, a German national and Panama resident, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Earlier this week, a former PDVSA procurement officer, Ivan Alexis Guedez, 47, of Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiracy to launder money.

The defendants include former PDVSA officials, professional third-party money launderers, and members of the Venezuelan elite, sometimes known as “boliburgués,” prosecutors said.

Ortega’s guilty plea revealed details about a false investment scheme. It was made to look like a payment into a fund. Instead the money was diverted and laundered.

The fake investment scheme was supported by “complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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