New complaints against ex-Miami congressman hired by Venezuela

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MIAMI (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government not only did no apparent work, but also funneled much of the money to a yacht company on behalf of a fugitive billionaire, according to new allegations in a civil lawsuit.

Charges against former congressman David Rivera are being refiled in federal court in New York on Friday by opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who now control the US subsidiaries of the state oil company South -American.

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Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA – a Delaware-based subsidiary of Venezuelan-owned Citgo. He alleges that Rivera performed no work for the $50 million contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting” intended to build bridges with key U.S. stakeholders.

The same contract has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Miami to determine, among other things, whether Rivera failed to register as a foreign lobbyist as required by law.

Rivera has not been charged with any crime, but the new documents provide detailed insight into his dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned oil industry and how he allegedly spent the money he received.

Around the same time Rivera was hired, Maduro’s government had launched a charm offensive to curry favor with the Trump administration. He initially avoided direct criticism from the new American leader and even donated $500,000 to his inaugural committee through Citgo.

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The new court filing is based on evidence recently uncovered by PDV USA attorneys, including 18,000 text messages and WhatsApp messages from Rivera’s phone and statements he gave during a two-day deposition in July.

Rivera only received $15 million of the original amount, but the new filing says he spent some of it on unexplained payments to a convicted drug dealer and a company managing yachts on behalf of a tycoon. of Venezuelan television wanted for arrest by the American authorities.

“Mr. Rivera never provided services to Citgo and, it appears, never intended to do so,” according to the PDV USA filing. “Instead, the true purpose of the agreement was to cover illicit transactions.”

Rivera did not respond to a request for comment, but he maintained his innocence and countersued PDV USA alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for his nonpayment of $30 million, he says. it is always due to him.

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According to the filing, in an exchange of messages with Raul Gorrin — a Maduro insider who owns Venezuela’s largest private television network — Rivera discussed trying to arrange a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign minister and officials. executives of the American oil company Exxon.

The new filing cites a message in which Rivera and Gorrin texted each other saying “concert ticket is $15, not $20 like we said last night” – PDV USA attorneys call a ” clear reference to a bribe”.

“During his deposition, Mr. Rivera was unable to explain the meaning of this text message and testified that he did not recall attending any concerts at the time,” he said. declared PDV USA on file. He did not specify who a bribe might have been intended for and the meeting never took place.

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Rivera had asked the court to shield his communications with Gorrin, who the United States says was the mastermind of a plot to embezzle $1.2 billion from PDVSA. Gorrin is an attorney, though not licensed to practice in the United States, and a judge ruled in June that Rivera’s communications with him did not meet the solicitor-client privilege threshold and should be turned over. as part of what is called discovery.

Of the $15 million Rivera received, about 75% was transferred to other people, according to the new filing. About $3.75 million was transferred to a Miami company, Interglobal Yacht Management. Rivera claimed the money was an expense for services under the contract. PDV USA instead alleges that it was used to pay for the maintenance of one of Gorrin’s superyachts.

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Similar sums went to Esther Nuhfer, who is described as a longtime political associate of Rivera, as well as Hugo Perera, a Miami developer who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in a massive drug trafficking case in the United States. 1990s against the dreaded Cali Cartel.

Rivera testified that the payments were for referral fees and for help he received under the consulting contract, according to the PDV USA account. But the new anti-Maduro leadership says PDV USA never allowed Rivera to outsource the work, as the consultancy deal specifically required.

To justify the large payments, PDV USA alleges that Rivera created “bogus contracts” backdated to March 20, 2017 – the day before the consulting agreement took effect.

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Interglobal refused to sign the backdated contract, saying it had not performed this type of outsourced service.

“In short, PDV USA received nothing from Interamerican in exchange for payments of $15 million,” the plaintiffs allege. “Most of this sum has been transferred to third parties who are either indicted fugitives or subject to criminal investigation in connection with these payments.”

The filing also alleges that other payments, deducted as expenses by Interamerican, were actually transferred between accounts controlled by Rivera. The new documents allege that Rivera’s own accountant testified in a deposition after meeting with Internal Revenue Service criminal investigators that he believed his client had committed tax fraud.

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The consulting contract had all the hallmarks of a sham, according to PDV USA. Rivera’s Interamerican earned just $9,500 the year before the multi-million deal was signed.

The lawsuit claims that the company then controlled by Maduro loyalists hired Interamerican on the spur of the moment, without due diligence, and that Rivera never met in person with anyone from Citgo or PDV USA while she was working. supposedly in his name. Instead, he filed two “deficient and inconsistent” progress reports out of the seven he was required to submit.

“The written record is devoid of any evidence that Interamerican performed any of the contracted services,” PDV USA claims in the new documents. “There is not a single e-mail, a single PowerPoint presentation, a single plan, a single memorandum, a single calendar entry or anything else to suggest that Interamerican has ever provided any of services.”

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Rivera served a single term in Congress, in 2011-13, and during that time honored Venezuelan exiles fleeing socialist rule and co-sponsored legislation to withhold funding for the Organization of American States until she confronts President Hugo Chavez for allegedly violating Venezuela’s constitution.

While serving as a state legislator, he shared a home in Tallahassee with the current senator. Marco Rubio, who was the Speaker of the State House at the time. Since then, he has been embroiled in several election-related controversies, including orchestrating the stealth funding of an obscure Democratic candidate to take on his chief rival in a congressional race from South Florida. Last year, he was fined $456,000 for violating campaign finance laws in connection with the plot.

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