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Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has claimed that recent corruption charges against three former employees are part of a “smear campaign.”

In a statement, PDVSA said that three former employees who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in December were only temporary workers who held low level positions in PDVSA Services Inc. and were removed from their posts before the allegations became public.

The U.S. Department of Justice said last week that former PDVSA employees Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, Christian, Javier Maldonado Barillas and Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz each pleaded guilty under seal to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Ramos, 38, Maldonado, 39, and Gravina, 53, all reside in Katy, Texas.

As part of their guilty pleas, the three men admitted that they accepted bribes from Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez in exchange for helping their companies win PDVSA contracts.

Bastidas, 52, of Coral Gables, Florida, pleaded guilty in a Houston federal court earlier this month to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and commit wire fraud and one count of violating the FCPA.

Rincon is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, seven counts of money laundering and four counts of violating the FCPA.

The charges against Rincon remain pending, the DOJ said.

PDVSA said it has hired forensic experts to conduct internal audits on its national and international procurement processes and to determine if any illegalities have occurred.

The company said that the charges are part of an “international smear campaign” that is being maintained by “the media.”

PDVSA added that it condemns any kind of illegal practices or behavior.