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DOJ cooperator admits obstruction in Venezuela bribery case

A former Houston-based procurement officer for Venezuela’s state energy company who was supposed to be helping the DOJ investigate graft at the company pleaded guilty Monday to obstructing the government’s investigation.

Alfonso Eliezer Gravina, 56, of Katy, Texas, worked for Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. or PDVSA.

He pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

Gravina had already pleaded guilty in the case in December 2015 to conspiracy to launder money and making false statements on his federal income tax return. In his earlier plea, he admitted taking bribes to help two U.S.-based businessmen win work from PDVSA and get paid faster.

He agreed after the earlier guilty plea to help the DOJ by providing more information about corruption at PDVSA.

But in early 2018 he concealed facts about an individual called “Co-Conspirator 1” who had bribed PDVDSA officials.

Gravina also told Co-Conspirator 1 he was under investigation.

Co-Conspirator 1 then destroyed evidence and tried to leave the United States.

Under Gravina’s new plea deal, the DOJ said it could still move to reduce his sentence based on his cooperation. 

Gravina is scheduled to be sentenced on February 19.

Fifteen individuals have now pleaded guilty in the massive investigation into bribery and corruption at PDVSA.

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

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