Ex-Venezuela mayor pleads guilty to $3.8m bribes

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CLEVELAND (TSWT) — A former ally of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez pleaded guilty in Miami on Thursday to accepting $3.8 million in bribes in return for running lucrative oil contracts from foreign joint ventures to foreign officials of the socialist government and the army of Venezuela.

Jhonnathan Marín was mayor of the port city of Guanta for nearly a decade until 2017 when he abruptly resigned and fled Venezuela amid a major purge at state oil giant PDVSA. The government of Chavez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, later ordered his arrest on corruption charges and barred him from standing for public office.

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He quietly traveled to Miami in April on a single count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, a lesser charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He was released the same day on $100,000 bond, according to court records.

As part of the plea agreement signed Thursday, he agreed to cooperate fully with federal agents investigating widespread corruption in Venezuela.

According to a statement accompanying the plea deal, Marín admitted to taking $3.8 million from an unnamed co-conspirator to use his position to influence officials of the PDVSA joint ventures with Chevron as well as companies in Europe, Russia and from China.

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Some of the proceeds from the bribery scheme were then transferred to bank accounts in South Florida for the benefit of Marin, his family and others. The illegal funds were used in part to purchase property in South Florida and the use of private jets.

There is no indication in the complaint that any of PDVSA’s foreign partners participated in or even knew about the bribery scheme.

But between 2015 and 2017, Marin ordered the head of procurement at Petrocedeno — an oil company then owned by PDVSA along with France’s Total and Norway’s Equinor — to award tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts to companies owned by his co-owner. -anonymous conspirator.

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Marín, 43, was an early adherent of Chávez’s Fifth Republic movement and in 2008 was elected mayor of Guanta, a town at the gates of the Orinoco oil belt, home to the largest reserves of oil in the world and about half of Venezuela’s current production.

He is represented by Michael Nadler, a former Miami federal prosecutor who made a name for himself targeting corruption in Maduro’s inner circle.

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Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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