Ex-Venezuela mayor travels to Miami for oil bribe | National

MIAMI (AP) — A former ally of Hugo Chávez wanted to be prosecuted by his socialist successor Nicolás Maduro has quietly visited Miami as part of a major corruption scheme involving oil joint ventures with foreign partners.

Jhonnathan Marín was mayor of the port city of Guanta in 2017 when he abruptly resigned and fled the country amid a major purge at the public oil giant PDVSA. Later, Maduro’s government ordered his arrest on corruption charges and barred him from standing for public office.

He was believed to be living in Mexico for the last time, but he surfaced in Miami on April 25, where he surrendered and was released the same day on $100,000 bail, court records show.

According to a previously unreported criminal complaint, Marín helped pay bribes on behalf of an unnamed co-conspirator who received tens of millions of dollars in joint venture contracts. public oil giant PDVSA with Chevron, French Total and companies. from Russia and China.

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As part of this scheme, Marín, between 2015 and 2018, allegedly helped transfer more than $1.2 million from a bank account in Miami to another in Panama for the benefit of two unnamed Venezuelan officials.

He was charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, a lesser charge that carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

Nothing in the complaint indicates that any of PDVSA’s foreign partners participated in or even knew about the bribery scheme.

Marín, 43, was an early adherent of Chávez’s Fifth Republic movement and in 2008 was elected mayor of Guanta, a town at the gates of the Orinoco oil belt, home to the largest reserves of oil in the world and about half of Venezuela’s current production.

He is represented by Michael Nadler, a former Miami federal prosecutor who has made a name for himself targeting corruption in Maduro’s inner circle. Nadler declined to comment, but Marín has in the past dismissed accusations made by Maduro allies as part of a political vendetta based on falsified evidence.

“We have nothing to hide,” he said in a video published on social networks in 2019. “On the contrary, this action gives us the opportunity to say a lot of things.

Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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