The president of a Miami-based company and its former sales representative were arrested Monday for their alleged roles to unlawfully obtain business advantages through bribery and kickbacks from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Rafael Enrique Pinto Franceschi, 40, of Miami, and Franz Herman Muller Huber, 68, of Weston, FL, were arrested in Miami after a five-count indictment from Houston was unsealed Tuesday. The pair are each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money.
In exchange for the bribes, PDVSA officials allegedly helped company A obtain contracts and pay fictitious invoices, according to the government.
The wire fraud charges against the pair are based on allegations they received kickbacks, with Pinto allegedly receiving more than $985,000 and Muller over $258,000, according to the Justice Department.
Pinto referred all questions to his lawyer, who could not be immediately reached. Muller could not be reached for comment.
With the unsealing of the indictment Tuesday, the Justice Department has brought charges against 21 individuals, 15 of whom have pleaded guilty as part of an ongoing U.S. government investigation into bribery at PDVSA.
This article first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more from the Houston Chronicle click here.