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    Florida man arrested on PDVSA bribery charges

Summary

A 59-year-old Syrian national laundered funds to purchase a $3.5mn plane, among other things.

by: Daniel Graeber

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Florida man arrested on PDVSA bribery charges

The US Justice Department said August 4 that a Florida resident was arrested on charges of bribing Venezuelan officials to secure contracts from its state-owned PDVSA.

The Justice Department said that 59-year-old Naman Wakil, a Syrian national and a lawful permanent resident of the US, allegedly conspired with unnamed associates to make bribery payments to secure at least $250mn in contracts from Venezuela’s state-controlled food distributor and state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). His alleged activity took place between 2010 and 2017.

“Wakil laundered funds related to the bribery scheme to and from bank accounts located in south Florida and purchased 10 apartment units in south Florida, a $3.5mn plane and a $1.5mn yacht, among other things,” the Justice Department alleged. “Wakil also used a portion of the funds to make payments to or for the benefit of the Venezuelan officials.”

Former US president Donald Trump enacted tough sanctions on the Venezuelan government and the entities it controls. Backing opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognised as the interim president of Venezuela after fraudulent elections in 2018 secured another term for Nicolas Maduro, then treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said sanctioning PDVSA was for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.

“The path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent, democratically elected government,” he said in January 2019.

Wakil was charged with conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering and other criminal activity. If convicted on all charges, he would serve a maximum of 80 years in prison.

He made his initial appearance before a federal judge on August 4.