UPDATE 1-Ex-officials at Venezuela's PDVSA pleaded guilty in bribe case -U.S.
(Adds details on case, comment from Justice Department)
By Nate Raymond
March 23 (Reuters) - Three former officials at Venezuela's state oil company have pleaded guilty to U.S. charges related to a scheme by two businessmen to corruptly secure energy contracts, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.
The former officials at Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) pleaded guilty under seal in December to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Their pleas were unsealed by a federal judge in Houston on Tuesday.
The ex-PDVSA officials are Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 38; Christian Javier Maldonado Barillas, 39; and Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz, 53.
The U.S. Justice Department said each has admitted to accepting bribes from two Venezuelan businessmen, Roberto Rincon and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, who were charged in December with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Shiera, who lives in Miami and owned multiple U.S.-based energy companies, pleaded guilty on Tuesday. One of his employees, Moises Abraham Millan Escobar, pleaded guilty under seal to a conspiracy charge in January, prosecutors said.
Lawyers for Rincon, president of Tradequip Services & Marine, and Shiera did not respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the ex-officials could not be immediately identified.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in a statement called the PDVSA case the "result of a tenacious and coordinated effort by our prosecutors and agents to unravel a complex web of bribes paid to Venezuelan officials." Continuación...