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The Case That Just Keeps On Giving – DOJ Announces Additional Charges In PDVSA Bribery Action


Several prior posts (see herehere and here for instance) have highlighted the clustering phenomenon and how a few discreet instances of alleged bribery yield an inordinate amount of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement activity against individuals.

One such example is the DOJ’s long-standing enforcement action (charges were first brought in late 2015) in connection with alleged corrupt schemes to secure contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, PDVSA.

Yesterday, the DOJ announced that Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino (Gonzalez – a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen) was arrested at Miami International Airport based on a criminal complaint charging conspiracy to violate the FCPA and a substantive FCPA violation for “conspiring to make, and making, corrupt payments to an official [at PDVSA] in exchange for favorable business treatment with PDVSA.”

In summary, the Affidavit from a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations in support of the Criminal Complaint states that a Cooperating Witness (CW – a Venezuelan national who was previously employed by PDVSA and has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money) “admitted, in sum and substance, that he received bribe payments and other things of value from Gonzalez while CW was employed as the General Manager of Bariven (a wholly-owned subsidiary of PDVSA) in exchange for acts and decisions taken by CW in his official capacity; for inducing CW to use his influence with Bariven, PDVSA, and other foreign officials in order to affect or influence acts and decisions thereof; and for other improper business advantages and assistance from CW.”

Specifically the affidavit states that in exchange for bribes from Gonzalez, CW:

  • took steps to direct contracts to Gonzalez’s companies;
  • gave Gonzalez’s companies priority over other vendors to receive payments;
  • awarded Gonzalez’s contracts with PDVSA in U.S. dollars, instead of Venezuelan bolivars;
  • helped Gonzalez prepare a presentation to be given to the PDVSA Board of Directors;
  • assisted Gonzalez in receiving priority to meet with the Board; and
  • took steps to influence the PDVSA Board of Directors’ decision to award a contract for turbine generators to one of Gonzalez’s companies.

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