Ex-PDVSA Trader Charged With Bribery in Widespread Graft Probe

Prosecutors in the office of act­ing Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme dis­closed that Daniel Comoretto, a for­mer trad­ing man­ag­er at Venezuela’s nation­al oil com­pa­ny PDVSA, had been charged in a sealed com­plaint that accused him of con­spir­ing to com­mit mon­ey laun­der­ing and receive bribes to facil­i­tate busi­ness with PDVSA between 2011 and 2015.

(Bloomberg) — A for­mer trad­er at Petroleos de Venezuela SA was charged with receiv­ing bribes as part of an expan­sive inves­ti­ga­tion into traders pay­ing for access to South American oil mar­kets that’s also net­ted a for­mer man­ag­er at Vitol Group and a Florida asphalt company

And in anoth­er case that is part of a sweep­ing U.S. crack­down on bribe pay­ments paid in Latin America to win busi­ness, Sargeant Marine Inc. plead­ed guilty to con­spir­ing to bribe offi­cials with nation­al oil com­pa­nies in Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil. U.S. pros­e­cu­tors in Brooklyn sep­a­rate­ly announced that a for­mer exec­u­tive with Vitol paid $870,000 in bribes to Ecuadorian offi­cials to win fuel oil con­tracts. Vitol owns an asphalt com­pa­ny called Valt, which it has ful­ly owned since 2019 after buy­ing out Sargeant Marine’s stake.

Prosecutors say Comoretto par­tic­i­pat­ed in a scheme with an uniden­ti­fied PDVSA offi­cial and an inter­me­di­ary act­ing as a con­sul­tant to solic­it bribes from com­pa­nies that want­ed access to asphalt from Venezuela, which was once one of the biggest region­al mak­ers of the prod­uct. Companies paid the con­sul­tant a com­mis­sion of 45 cents for every bar­rel of asphalt. The con­sul­tant, in turn, then paid PDVSA offi­cials, includ­ing Comoretto, accord­ing to the charges. Comoretto received $229,000 in bribes.

Sargeant plead­ed guilty Tuesday before a fed­er­al judge in Brooklyn to con­spir­ing to vio­late the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and was sen­tenced to pay a crim­i­nal fine of $16.6 mil­lion. Daniel Sargeant, a for­mer exec­u­tive and part own­er of the Boca Raton, Florida-based com­pa­ny, also secret­ly plead­ed guilty in July to mon­ey laun­der­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in a bribe-pay­ing scheme in which pay­ments were made to Brazilian gov­ern­ment offi­cials to win busi­ness for the com­pa­ny, pros­e­cu­tors said. His broth­er, Harry Sargeant III, a Florida ener­gy tycoon, dis­avowed any involve­ment or own­er­ship in the com­pa­ny when reached for comment.

Comoretto, who was arrest­ed in Tennessee, made an ini­tial court appear­ance before a fed­er­al mag­is­trate on Sept. 18 and was released on a $100,000 bond. Leticia Olivera, a lawyer for Comoretto, didn’t imme­di­ate­ly return an email seek­ing com­ment about the case. PDVSA didn’t imme­di­ate­ly return an email seek­ing comment.

Meanwhile, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors alleged Javier Aguilar paid $870,000 to Petroecuador to obtain a $300 mil­lion fuel-oil con­tract. Aguilar’s for­mer employ­er wasn’t iden­ti­fied by the U.S. in the indict­ment but he was employed by Rotterdam-based Vitol, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because the mat­ter isn’t public.

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