DOJ charges three Colombians, two Venezuelans in alleged bribery scheme

DOJ charges three Colombians, two Venezuelans in alleged bribery scheme
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday it is charging three Colombians and two Venezuelans for an alleged Venezuela bribery scheme.

An indictment unsealed Thursday charged Colombians Alvaro Pulido Vargas, Emmanuel Enrique Rubio Gonzalez and Carlos Rolando Lizcano Manrique, along with Venezuelans Jose Gregorio Vielma-Mora and Ana Guillermo Luis, with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of money laundering. 

The DOJ says the five men obtained contracts with a Venezuelan state-run food and medicine program called CLAP and inflated the costs to enrich themselves and pay bribes. 

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The scheme allegedly happened from 2016 to 2020 when the five made $1.6 billion from the Venezuelan government and transferred $180 million to the U.S. 

They also allegedly laundered the money to and through bank accounts in the U.S. from Antigua, United Arab Emirates. The five could face a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison if convicted. 

Before the indictment on Thursday, a Miami federal judge reduced the prison sentence for the former bodyguard of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported

Alejandro Andrade’s 10-year sentence was reduced to 42 months after he pleaded guilty in 2017 to his part in a foreign currency conspiracy.

The news of the charges from the DOJ and reduced prison sentence for Andrade comes as tensions are rising between Venezuela and the U.S. as two extraditions of those close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro were announced. 

An envoy for Maduro was recently extradited to the U.S. and Spain recently agreed to extradite a former Venezuelan spymaster. After the extradition of the envoy, six American oil company executives in Venezuela were taken off house arrest and into the country’s national intelligence police headquarters in retaliation.