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« Jessica Tillipman on Equifax: Should it be debarred? Not necessarily | Main | Resource Alert: The TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix »
Thursday
Oct122017

Florida businessman pleads guilty in Venezuela PDVSA bribery scheme

The part owner of several Florida-based businesses pleaded guilty Wednesday to foreign bribery charges in a plot to win contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company.

Fernando Ardila Rueda, 49, of Miami pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating the FCPA. 

Sentencing is scheduled for February 8 next year.

Ardila conspired with two Venezuelan businessmen based in the United States to bribe purchasing analysts at Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. or PDVSA.

The two men were Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, the former president of Tradequip Services & Marine, and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez, the manager of Vertix Instrumentos.

Shiera pleaded guilty in March 2016 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and commit wire fraud and one count of violating the FCPA.

Rincon pleaded guilty in June last year to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, one count of violating the FCPA, and one count of making false statements on his 2010 federal income tax return.

Rincon supplied PDVSA with $500 million in oil equipment a year, "becoming one of the state oil firm’s most important contractors, according to former senior executives of the oil firm," the Wall Street Journal said.

Ardila was a sales director and part owner of several of Shiera’s companies from 2008 to 2014.

He admitted in his plea Wednesday to providing entertainment and offering bribes to PDVSA officials. The amount of the bribes was based on the value of contracts the officials helped Shiera’s companies win. 

Ten individuals have now pleaded guilty and are wating to be sentenced as part of a wider U.S. investigation into graft at PDVSA.

One of the PDVSA officials who took bribes was Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz. He pleaded guilty in December 2015 in federal court in Houston to conspiracy to launder bribe money and making false statements on his 2010 U.S. federal income tax return.

Two other former PDVSA employees -- Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 38, Christian Javier Maldonado Barillas, 39, both from Katy, Texas -- have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Moises Abraham Millan Escobar, 32, of Katy, Texas was Shiera’s former employee. He pleaded guilty earlier to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA for bribing PDVSA officials.

In January this year, Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma, 51, of Weston, Florida pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating the FCPA.

Hernandez admitted he conspired with Shiera and Rincon to pay bribes to PDVSA purchasing analysts.

Charles Quintard Beech III, 46, of Katy, Texas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He owns several Texas-based companies.

From 2011 to 2012, Beech bribed several PDVSA officials in exchange for help putting his companies on PDVSA bidding panels and getting paid for previously awarded PDVSA contracts.

___

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

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