Venezuelan prosecutor against Maduro involved in bribery

Miami (AP) — Former Venezuelan Attorney General, who rebelled against President Nicolas Maduro as an aide to his opponents, involved a major corruption case involving a Venezuelan businessman who pleaded guilty to paying $ 1 million in bribes this week. Is involved in. I said on Thursday.

Former civil servant Luisa Ortega is not mentioned by name in a federal proceeding in Miami. However, businessman Carlos Urbano Fermin, who quietly pleaded guilty to attempting a U.S. fraud on Monday, told Venezuela’s “high-ranking prosecutor” that he had “high-ranking prosecutors” for his extensive investigation. He admitted that he had paid a bribe of about $ 1 million as “insurance.” Construction contract with PDVSA, a major state-owned oil company.

The unnamed Venezuelan official was Ortega, two people familiar with the case said. They agreed to provide details only if not cited by name, as they are not yet to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Ortega did not immediately respond to the request for comment. But when Fermin was indicted last year, she tried to damage her reputation by forcing a confession by the Maduro government, triggered by a bribe allegation caused by Venezuela’s arrest of Fermin’s brother in 2019. Said it was an attempt.

Ortega, a longtime worshiper of the late Hugo Chavez, said she would fall into the dictatorship of the country when Maduro eradicated the opposition-controlled parliament and created a parallel constitutional parliament to govern the supreme. In 2017, he broke up with the Venezuelan socialist government over what he called.

Due to her candid opinion, she was expelled as Attorney General and immediately. Escaped to neighboring ColombiaShe and a team of exiled prosecutors sharpened the attack on corruption in her hometown and provided evidence to the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Maduro government.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s allies rallyed in her defense, summoning her Venezuelan “legitimate” chief prosecutor and using her asylum to build a broader anti-Maduro coalition.

However, she could not completely undermine her reputation as a Loyalist who served as the Supreme Judiciary Enforcer of the Bolivarian Revolution for ten years. The United States has always kept a distance and refused to accept the request to travel to Washington, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press in 2017. In a speech to Parliament in 2015, Ortega “North” for their “colonial design” on oil wealth in Venezuela.

Fermin, according to a three-page, heavily edited fact-finding proposal that accompanies his petition, between 2012 and 2016, his company was numerous from three PDVSA joint ventures with foreign oil companies. He said he had won a large contract. SA.

In early 2017, Ortega’s office investigated the awarding of a contract with Orinoco Belt’s joint venture, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, according to Fermin’s petition. At about the same time, Venezuelan lawyers promised to be near an unnamed high-ranking prosecutor and suppress criminal investigations, Fermin said.

According to court filings, the intermediary described himself as an “insurance contract” and “advised the defendant to be capable of preventing criminal accusations.”

Fermin then said he had sent about $ 1 million from the United States to explain the interests of unnamed Venezuelan officials, including a $ 100,000 payment to a bank in Coral Gables, a suburb of Miami. It was.

The Venezuelan government did not make any charges against Fermin’s company while Ortega was the Supreme Prosecutor, but Maduro’s appointed successor, Tarek William Saab, said in 2019 Fermin and him. He charged two brothers and arrested one.

Assistant federal prosecutor Michael Berger charged Fermin 13 months ago, but Venezuelans were arrested only this month. After pleading guilty this week, he was released on a $ 100,000 personal guarantee bond. This is a sign that he is working with an investigator. He will be sentenced to prison in September.


Twitter Joshua Goodman: @APJoshGoodman