Monday, June 27

Former PDVSA official sentenced to prison for money laundering

(CNN Español) — The South Florida District Court sentenced a former official of the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to 28 months in prison, who admitted that he had received bribes and participated in the laundering of US $ 1,200 million taken from the company illegally, Deputy Prosecutor Kurt K. Lunkenheimer confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

The sentence for Abraham Edgardo Ortega, PDVSA’s chief financial officer between 2012 and 2014, according to court documents, was less than what the prosecutors requested. That was due to his “extraordinary acceptance of responsibility and his cooperation with the authorities,” one of his attorneys, Lilly Ann Sánchez, told CNN.

Prosecutors had proposed a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in jail, according to documents filed with the court.

“We are pleased with the result and we believe that it is fair, due to the immediate response that Mr. Ortega had in July 2018 and his important help to the government from the moment he learned that there were charges against him,” Sánchez explained. Thursday in an email.

Ortega had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

A complex scheme

Ortega admitted that during his tenure at PDVSA he accepted US $ 5,000,000 in bribes to grant priority loan status to a French company and a Russian bank. These were the minority shareholders in joint ventures with PDVSA, according to the DOJ.

“Ortega was paid for this bribery scheme with the proceeds of a currency exchange scheme, through which US $ 1.2 billion was embezzled from PDVSA through bribes and fraud,” added the federal department.

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He also indicated that “Ortega admitted that he and a co-defendant laundered US $ 12,000,000 through a sophisticated false investment scheme that received money from a payment made to appear to be an investment in a fund, but that, in fact, it was taken from the fund via money laundering.

According to the Justice Department, Ortega told US authorities that “around this false investment laundering scheme there were complicit money managers. (There were) banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere operating as a network of professional money launderers. ‘

First former PDVSA official sentenced in the case

In 2018, the federal department charged Ortega and the other alleged members of the group that laundered PDVSA assets with various charges. Among them were conspiracy to commit money laundering, laundering of money and other instruments, and international promotion of money laundering.

Ortega is the first former PDVSA official to be sentenced in the United States in the case. Two more people have already received sentences of 120 and 42 months in prison, respectively, for their involvement in the criminal plot.

Of the other defendants, one is out on bail in the United States and the rest are at large, Lunkenheimer told CNN on Thursday.

CNN did not receive a response to the messages sent this Thursday to PDVSA and the Ministry of Communication and Information of Venezuela seeking comment after this ruling.

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