AP’s Joshua Goodman has an explosive scoop on the recently unsealed U.S. indictment against Luis de León, Nervis Villalobos, César Rincón, Alejandro Istúriz Chiesa and Rafael Reiter, accused of setting up a bribery scheme to speed up overdue payments owed by PDVSA to companies owned by the infamous and now imprisoned “businessmen” Roberto Ricón and Abraham Shiera.

The indictment mentions two senior PDVSA officers cryptically referred to as “Official A” and “Official B”, allegedly bribed to speed up payments. The identity of Official A is not revealed, but according to an anonymous source from the U.S. government, Official B is no other than disgraced oil czar, best selling author and anti-corruption lecturer Rafael Ramírez:

In Monday’s indictment, prosecutors in Houston allege two of the charged individuals told businessmen that proceeds from bribe payments they made in exchange for quick payments and contracts with Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA would be shared with a senior Venezuelan official, identified in the unsealed portion as “Official B.”

That unidentified Venezuelan politician is Ramírez, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The official agreed to talk about the case only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The indictment is a doozy, full of anonymous characters and terms like “Curaçao Account” and “Swiss Banker” and hilarious texts in Venezuelan jargon for schemes such as: “ Hi P and P, I’m sending the coordinates for you to send me something to buy coal to keep cooking the stew.” (Yes, really.)

Anti-imperialism notwithstanding, Officer B wanted to provide his children with the best education that oil kickbacks could buy and the indictment shows that a company owned by Rincón pays over $27K to an English language school for Office B’s children. No Open English for these kiddos:

… [I]n 2014, Reiter forwarded to Rincón invoices for English classes being taken by two of Official B’s children in the amount of over $25,000, the indictment says. A week later, funds in the same amount from a company controlled by Rincón were allegedly transferred to the school.

Rincón is no cheap sugar daddy; according to the indictment, he provided Reiter (who was PDVSA’s chief of corporate security during Ramirez’s tenure and often accompanied him in public) with a condo in Miami’s Four Seasons, bought through “Law Firm 1” and a $10k handbag that matches perfectly with Ramirez’s $100 steaks and $3,500 scotch bottles:

In text messages, the charges allege, the conspirators used ambiguous terms like “ration” and “candy” to refer to the bribes and even traded charts of how much was owed. Prosecutors also allege that businessmen bought expensive gifts for the defendants and their associates, including a $10,000 handbag and a holiday vacation in the Bahamas. On Reiter’s behalf, they also allegedly purchased a condominium at the Miami Four Seasons and an armored car and invested in a movie.

This shows again the difficulty of finding any “clean” figure among disgraced chavistas, and that any dirt they may have against Maduro and co. may end up reflecting on their own shenanigans.  

For Ramírez, this is one more song of his ongoing pity party. Although he is constantly (and smugly) lecturing on how pristine everything was during his years in PVDSA, we are instead reminded of his own corrupt and disastrous tenure. Deep down, Ramírez is just a thug, mad because he was outsmarted by bigger fish.

Now we know he wasn’t lying when he said he couldn’t afford living in the US.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. In trying to identiify Officer “B” I noticed that he is mentioned in the offcial document as having two children who received english lessons paid by one of the accused ( a stupidity, when you are dealing with millions of dollars in kickbacks) . According to his biography in Internet Ramirez has two children, This, of course, does not make him Officer “B” but does not eliminate him, either.
    His association with Reiter, Villalobos, Diego Salazar, his cousin, is not a reassuring sign.
    As minister and president of PDVSA Ramirez was in total command of this tragedy. Nothing that big could have been done without his knowledge.

  2. I’ve always imagined that when he realized he would lose diplomatic immunity, he kicked his exit plan into high gear. What a crook. Hope Chavez daughters are next up.

  3. Bigger story here: how did the Gringos fail to turn this guy?

    Federal prosecutors have a literal arsenal they can entice guys like Ramirez, and none would have been more attractive to him than an offer of immunity. What failed? Why? Is this man seriously as committed enough to turn that mango bajito? What did the regime offer him instead? This stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, boys and girls. And that’s before you get to the people that really want to talk to him who can really cut corners for him.

    I mean, it worked for Juan Planchard…

  4. “Bigger story here: how did the Gringos fail to turn this guy?”

    Did they try? Could they have turned him, have a deal in-hand, and even though he’s said to “Official B” in the indictment he can still get out of it? I ask because I’m not an attorney and don’t know how these things work.

    The bigger story for me is, if he was in the States, and being named in such an indictment, how did US authorities let him leave the country (most seem to believe he’s no longer in the States but don’t know where exactly)?

    A lot of unanswered questions surrounding him.

    Another question, who’s “Official A”?

    • If you enter the US with an A visa (diplo type) gringos can’t really mess with you from a legal standpoint. You can have as many meetings as you want, but holding him is just not how things are done out there. Best you can do here is nicely walk them to their private plane and see them jet into the horizon.

      Now, is this a case of “I know where the bodies are buried and therefore I can get out of it” or “if I hide in Equatorial Guinea they’ll make it worth my while” that’s an entirely different and appropriate question for this peculiar circumstance.

      I definitely like the coterie of names that are being floated around here. That tends to mean good things for the prosecution.

    • Official A in my opinion is someone higher in the hierarchy….hmmm who would be superior tp the head of the PDVSA. It begins with a M….just a guess.

  5. Live and learn!! So Ramirez and other thugs in PDVSA are corrupt mega-crooks?! Wowwww…me desayuno, no me creo esa vaina… This is too much of a shock to take before breakfast! Please do not reveal to us now that there are any other thieves in Kleptozuela, such a pristine nation, no one will believe it.

    What will be the next shocking revelation? That Cabello and Tarek had a little something to do with drugs?

  6. This RR corruption amount is literally chicken feed–the real amounts are in the 10’s of BILLIONS of $ for him alone–will Venezuela ever even bother to try to track this and other mega-corrupt crooks’ stolen wealth down??–I doubt it, since they haven’t tried before with such pikers as CAP/JL–even HCF, who threatened to do so early on, didn’t do it–virtually everyone, especially politicos/military/enchufados, have rabos de paja….

  7. Anyone else want to take a stab at the identity of official A. Mine is Maduro and I admit that is totally speculative but I do think that official A is senior to official B, Ramitez.

  8. “In 2014, Reiter forwarded to Rincón invoices for English classes being taken by two of Official B’s children in the amount of over $25,000, the indictment says. A week later, funds in the same amount from a company controlled by Rincón were allegedly transferred to the school.”

    Doesn’t that sound like typical alta-chavista? Instead of just writing a check for $25,000 (the cost of a party for them and their buddies) for the English classes for his kids, he has someone else pay the bill ‘via a corrupt means.

    They’re so corrupt, and have been corrupt for so long, that doing something legally never occurs to them.

    • They probably don’t see what the big deal was about the Sopranos.

      BTW MRubio hve the power outages been affecting your area of the country? You seem to post frequently and I assume you have “hi speed” internet – at least enough to function. Do you rely on your own power generation (solar/battery or gas generator)? Do you use satellite based internet? I don’t mean to be nosy, but based on what I read about Venezuela ….

      • Power outages have not hit yet on a nationwide scale YET. It is a ticking time bomb. They need to do rationing so they can do maintenance, but the government is hellbent on keeping the power on before the April 22 elections. If you listen to the audio of the leader of the union you would know what is going on.

        Power outages will happen soon. If not a complete collapse because of a lack of maintenance, outages will start after April 23rd after the election is stolen. Again, they cannot do rationing now because there is NO CASH in the streets and EVERYTHING has to be paid for with punto de venta (card swiper).

      • AG, power outages here a few years back were frequent, almost daily. Yes, I do have a diesel generator here at the house but haven’t had to use it for quite some time now.

        A few years ago the town managed to tie into a PDVSA substation’s electrical grid which is located about 10 kilometers from here. With that the almost daily failures stopped. As guacharaca says, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until PDVSA’s system collapses as well.

        Internet is via a Movistar system. Used to use Digitel but someone stole their broadcasting equipment for about the 10th time and they abandoned the town. Don’t blame them at all…..I would have told the town to fuck off much sooner.

  9. I tend to believe that the US govt has the hooks into RR’s many shenagigans , moreover that they know were his money is stashed , the money in the Andorra accounts were tied to him and it was ordered released by a US judge,probably to follow the trail that they would take after their release , his brother in law is often mentioned as closely tied to his ‘business deals’ and is in spain , following his money is also likely to yield quite a bit of information and evidence ……why the US govt hasnt been more aggresive in puclicising RR’s shady deals is a bit of a puzzle , there are many more which they must know about……

    Dont think that Maduro was ever a fan of RR , they were rivals for Chavez personal trust , and Chavez did favour RR quite a bit …….have always suspected that Maduro was chosen as Chavez succesor by Castro …!!

    The one difference I see between both leaders however is that while RR was certainly corrupt after Chavez died he did try to structure a plan to prevent or ameliorate the coming crisis and Maduro shot him down ….. maybe if these plans had been adopted the crisis wouldnt be as devastating as it is now.

  10. A Houston firm filed a lawsuit today against RR.

    “Ramirez, contacted Friday by AP, declined to comment on the suit but reiterated that he never asked for bribes or played a role in the selection of PDVSA’s business partners.”

    So how the fuck can AP credibly report on this, without the article mentioning where he is?

    It doesn’t make sense.

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