Rafael Ramírez Took Bribes, Federal Indictment Reveals

The indictment against Nervis Villalobos and four others doesn't accuse Ramírez of a crime. But it alleges he received bribe after bribe, funding a decadent luxury lifestyle by collecting “speed money” to fast-track payments PDVSA owed to contractors.

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.