Two U.S. based energy executives pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges related to a years long bribery scheme tied to contracts with Venezuela’s PDVSA.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma (Hernandez), of Weston, Florida, pleaded guilty in a Houston federal court to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and one count of violating the FCPA.
Hernandez, 51, is a former general manager and partial owner of a Florida-based energy company.
Charles Quintard Beech III, of Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.
Beech, 46, is an owner of multiple Texas-based energy companies.
U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller of the Southern District of Texas accepted the guilty pleas.
The DOJ said that Hernandez admitted to conspiring with U.S.-based businessmen Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas (Shiera) and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez (Rincon) to pay bribes and give “other things of value” to PDVSA purchasing analysts.
The DOJ said that the bribes “ensured that Shiera’s and Rincon’s companies were placed on PDVSA bidding panels, which enabled the companies to win lucrative energy contracts with PDVSA.”
Hernandez also admitted that from 2008 to 2012, while he served as general manager and later as a partial owner of one of Shiera’s companies, he provided recreational travel and entertainment to PDVSA officials and also offered bribes to the officials.
The bribes were based on a percentage of contracts the officials helped to award to Shiera’s companies, the DOJ said.
The PDVSA officials Hernandez offered bribes to included Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz (Gravina).
According to the FCPA Blog, Gravina pleaded guilty in December 2015 to conspiracy to launder money and to making false statements on his 2010 U.S. federal income tax return.
Shiera pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud and one count of violating the FCPA in March 2016, the FCPA blog reported.
Rincon pleaded guilty 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 in June 2016, according to the FCPA Blog.
The DOJ said that Beech admitted to paying bribes to “multiple” PDVSA officials from 2011 to 2012, including Gravina.
In exchange for the bribes, Beech’s companies were placed on PDVSA bidding panels.
The bribes also granted Beech’s companies assistance in receiving payment for previously awarded PDVSA contracts.
Beech also admitted that he agreed with others, including PDVSA officials, to “engage in financial transactions to conceal the nature, source and ownership of the bribe proceeds,” the DOJ said.
Hernandez and Beech are scheduled to be sentenced on July 14, 2017.
In addition to Hernandez and Beech, the DOJ has announced the guilty pleas of six other individuals as part of a larger, ongoing investigation by the U.S. government into bribery at PDVSA.