MIAMI (AP) — A Florida-based oilman who pleaded guilty to participating in a $1 billion conspiracy to pay bribes to Venezuelan officials was given a major reduced sentence after collaborating with U.S. prosecutors overturning corruption at the state-run oil monopoly of the country investigated.
Abraham Shiera was one of the first witnesses to come forward and cooperate in a sprawling, multi-district federal investigation into PDVSA, as the oil giant is known, after his arrest in 2016.
Judge Gray Miller sentenced Shiera, who was born in Venezuela, to 12 months and one day in prison on Thursday — a light sentence that means he is unlikely to spend long behind bars.
Shiera and his business partner, fellow Venezuelan oil tycoon Roberto Rincon, were accused of paying bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts to build electricity generators for PDVSA at a time when Venezuela was experiencing widespread power outages.
In return for manipulating seemingly competitive bidding processes, the two paid bribes to various officials in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in wire transfers to foreign bank accounts, a $14,502 hotel reservation at Miami’s swanky Fontainebleau Hotel and, in one case, a bottle of whiskey. .
It is not known exactly who Shiera testified against as part of his collaboration. Most of the files in the case — even the memo asking the government for leniency this week — have been sealed for years.
But in the years since his arrest, countless other Venezuelan insiders, including… a deputy minister of energy and multiple officials working for PDVSA and its affiliates have been indicted on similar charges.
One of the bribe recipients from Shiera and Rincon identified as “Official B” in a related indictment is Venezuelan former oil czar, Rafael Ramireza US official told The Associated Press in 2018.
Ramirez, who has not been charged with any criminal charges, denies any wrongdoing and says corruption charges are being propagated by his political opponents and by overzealous US prosecutors trying to dismantle the Bolivarian revolution started by the late Hugo Chavez.
While professing to be faithful to the leftist ideals of his former boss, Ramirez is a staunch critic of Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, and lives in exile in Italy after resigning as the country’s ambassador to the United States in 2017. Nations.
Shiera’s lawyer declined to comment. Rincon is expected to be sentenced in December.
Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman
JOIN THE CALL