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Five Former Venezuelan Government Officials Charged

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. Feb. 14, 2018: Five former Venezuelan government officials have been indicted for their alleged participation for their alleged participation in an international money laundering scheme.

The scheme involves bribes made to corruptly secure energy contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., (PDVSA).

Four of the defendants, Luis Carlos De Leon Perez (De Leon), 41; Nervis Gerardo Villalobos Cardenas (Villalobos), 50; Cesar David Rincon Godoy (Cesar Rincon), 50; and Rafael Ernesto Reiter Munoz (Reiter), 39, were arrested in Spain in October 2017 by Spanish authorities on arrest warrants based on a 20-count indictment returned in the Southern District of Texas on Aug. 23, 2017.

Cesar Rincon was extradited from Spain on Feb. 9th, and made his initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge MJ Stephen Smith of the Southern District of Texas.  De Leon, Villalobos and Reiter remain in Spanish custody pending extradition.  A fifth defendant, Alejandro Isturiz Chiesa (Isturiz), 33, remains at large.  All five defendants are citizens of Venezuela while De Leon is also a U.S. citizen.

The indictment alleges that the five defendants, all of whom were then-current officials of PDVSA and its subsidiaries or former officials of other Venezuelan government agencies or instrumentalities, were known as the “management team” and wielded significant influence within PDVSA.  According to the indictment, the management team conspired with each other and others to solicit several PDVSA vendors, including vendors who were residents of the United States, and who owned and controlled businesses incorporated and based in the United States, for bribes and kickbacks in exchange for providing assistance to those vendors in connection with their PDVSA business.  The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators then laundered the proceeds of the bribery scheme through a series of complex international financial transactions, including to, from or through bank accounts in the United States, and, in some instances, laundered the bribe proceeds in the form of real estate transactions and other investments in the United States.

De Leon, Villalobos, Reiter and Isturiz are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Cesar Rincon is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Each of the defendants is charged with one or more counts of money laundering, as follows:  De Leon, Cesar Rincon and Reiter, four counts each; Villalobos, one count; and Isturiz, five counts.  De Leon and Villalobos are also each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.



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