U.S. Charges 5 Ex-Venezuelan Officials in Oil Bribery Probe

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -

U.S. prosecutors in Houston have unsealed charges against five former Venezuelan officials in connection with an alleged major bribery scheme at Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA.

Among those charged with money laundering on Monday are Rafael Reiter and Deputy Energy Minister Nervis Villalobos. Both were aides to Venezuela’s former oil czar and recently removed ambassador to the United Nations, Rafael Ramirez, who was not charged.

The indictment alleges two PDVSA vendors sent more than $27 million in bribes to Swiss accounts controlled by Villalobos and another former official, Luis Carlos Leon, who was also charged. All three men were arrested in Spain last year and are facing extradition.

The Justice Department has now announced charges against a total of 15 individuals as part of a larger probe into bribery at PDVSA.