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Hidden Corruption Schemes in Miami

A plot that has generated many suspicions and that, it is estimated, will shed light on the hidden corruption schemes that exist among the political class in Miami.


by Maibort Petit


In a trial to be held this summer in New York, it will be possible to clarify where the funds paid by Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), a state company controlled by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, paid to the consultancy Interamerican Consulting Inc, owned by the former Cuban-American Congressman, David Rivera.


In the questionnaires sent by the plaintiff PDV USA, the accused party has been mentioned the names of the leader of Voluntad Popular political party, Leopoldo López, the fugitive from justice of the United States, Raúl Gorrín and other people linked to the opposition and Chavismo in the state of Florida.



Photo of US Congressman David Rivera
US Congressman David Rivera

The matter lies in a lawsuit, of a civil nature, filed by the lawyers of PDV USA/CITGO (controlled by the interim government presided over by Juan Guaidó), in May 2020 for the breach of a contract for USD 50 million granted by Petróleos de Venezuela (under the command of the Nicolás Maduro regime) in 2017 to the company of the former congressman, David Rivera (Interamerican Consulting Inc.) to lobby for PDVSA before U.S. authorities in Washington DC. and improve the image of the state oil company before the federal government of then-President Donald Trump.


 

About the Author


Maibort Petit is a Venezuelan writer, researcher and political scientist specialized in Transnational Organized Crime. Based in New York, she works for various Hispanic media outlets and as a consultant for various firms in New York and Washington DC.



 

The first part of the contract payment, equivalent to USD 15 million, (three transfers of USD 5 million each) was paid by CITGO Petroleum Corp. based on a report of actions carried out by Interamerican before various official entities in the US capital. Doubts then arose from the warning that lobbying services were allegedly not performed (according to the lawsuit). Following an alert from the auditors, CITGO did not pay the rest of the contract, i.e. USD 35 million.


Why does David Rivera argue that PDVSA cannot sue him nor does the New York court have jurisdiction to handle the case?


Rivera pressured CITGO to pay him the remainder, but PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary decided not to continue payments, due to the lack of clarity of the services provided. In mid-2020, lawyers for THE CITGO-linked corporation PDV-USA which passed into the hands of the interim government in April 2019 decided to sue Interamerican in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to have David Rivera return to CITGO the $15 million received for the services of the breached contract.

The former congressman responded to the DEMAND PDV USA (CITGO) with a request to collect the remainder of USD 35 million and with accusations involving several politicians and people linked to the opposition and the Maduro regime.

Rivera revealed to media in Miami, Florida, that part of the money obtained from the disputed contract had been given to the leader of Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo López and his wife Lilian Tintori, with the aim of financing the opposition protests in Venezuela, held in 2017 in Caracas.


 

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Leopoldo Lopez and Tintori denied Rivera's allegations. Lopez announced, in June 2020, that he would sue the former U.S. congressman for defamation. To date, the lawsuit has not materialized.

Another point that Rivera made when asked about the money was that the answer could be obtained in "the CITGO 6" (José Pereira, José Zambrano, Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano and Tomeu Vadell).


The CITGO 6 is the name given to a group of six senior managers of the Petróleos de Venezuela subsidiary in the United States, who were arrested on November 21, 2017, accused of signing an agreement that was unfavorable to CITGO. The six men remain behind bars in Caracas.


EXCLUSIVE: CITGO paid David Rivera the $15 million to lobby for PDVSA (Nicolás Maduro) in the U.S.


Other names that emerged in the journalistic coverage of this case in Miami, include one of the fugitives from US justice, Raúl Gorrín, accused of several financial crimes in the US; Rivera's romantic partner, owner of a lobbying company, Esther Nuhfer; and Hugo Perera.


By the time the PDVSA contract was awarded (March 2017), the following officials appeared to be holding key positions at the state oil company: Nelson Ferrer, Ysmel Serrano, Delcy Rodríguez, Simón Zerpa and César Triana.


 

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In the responses given by Interamerican in the questionnaire sent by the accusing party, Rivera mentions several (former) executives and (former) employees of CITGO at the headquarters in Houston, Texas, as well as others with direct knowledge of the reason for the lawsuit and who may be witnesses for handling relevant information about the subject matter of the complaint, namely: Arnaldo Arcay, José Luis De Jongh-Atencio, Dustin Rozeboom, Judith Colbert, Rafael Gómez, Edoardo Orsoni, Guillermo Blanco, Pio González, José Ángel Pereira, Gustavo Cárdenas, Alejandro Escarrá, Elio Tortolero, Raúl Gorrín, Hugo Perera, Esther Nuhfer, Bertica Cabrera, Pete Sessions and David Rivera himself.


PDV USA accuses former congressman David Rivera of alleged false statements


In the questions, two companies are mentioned that allegedly received part of the funds from PDV USA through the three payments of the unfulfilled contract.

1) Details of the $625,000 Interamerican transferred to Krome Argonomics LLC on March 27, 2017.

Krome Argonomics LLC is an entity created in the state of Florida by Hugo Perera on July 21, 2008, located at 141 Sevilla Ave Miami, FL 33134 and that, to date, is active.

2) Details of USD 3,750,000 that Interamerican transferred to Interglobal Yacht Management LLC between March 31, 2017 and April 24, 2017.

Interglobal Yacht Management LLC is a company registered in Florida, on January 9, 2017 by Joel Brakal and Daniel Marinucci at 2665 South Bay Shore Dr. Suite 600, Miami, Florida, 33133.


Why does David Rivera argue that PDVSA cannot sue him nor does the New York court have jurisdiction to handle the case?


Interamerican Consulting Inc.'s motions to PDV USA questionnaires


The former Cuban-American congressman, David Rivera, through his company, Interamerican Consulting Inc., took refuge in Rule 33.3 to not give an immediate answer to the questions asked by the lawyers of Petróleos de Venezuela USA (PDV-USA) (CITGO) in relation to the lawsuit for breach of a contract of USD 50 million (signed in 2017, to carry out lobbying efforts before the Federal Government and the Congress of the United States with a view to improving the image of PDVSA before the authorities in Washington DC). The defendant company received a first payment of $15 million for work it did not execute, according to the lawsuit documents.

David Rivera's lawyers delivered to the court a series of objections to several questionnaires sent by the plaintiffs, PDV USA (CITGO) to give clarity to the facts indicated.

Interamerican Consulting Inc. opposed each of PDV USA's Interrogations as inadmissible to the extent that they are inconsistent with Local Rule 33.3.

Rivera's company alleges that the prosecuting party seeks the production of materials or the disclosure of information protected from discovery by attorney-client privilege, labor product doctrine, or any other applicable protections.

In the motions, Interamerican argues that the responses are made solely for the purposes of this action.

It warns that each response is subject "to all objections as to jurisdiction, relevance, materiality and admissibility, and to any and all other objections and grounds whose objections would require the exclusion of any brief presented herein at trial, all of which objections and grounds are reserved and may be brought at the time of the trial."

Not ready for trial

Interamerican warns that it has not completed its investigation and discovery in the action and has not completed its preparation for the trial to take place. "Any response in this document is based on information currently known to the Respondent."

Questions and Answers

1. Describe in detail Interamerican's performance under the Agreement, including, but not limited to, the establishment of adequate and complete details of any and all services provided.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

2. Identify the following persons and/or entities referred to by Interamerican in the Final Report and describe in detail any meetings, discussions or communications with them, including, but not limited to, those referred to in the April 18, May 16, May 30, and June 13 Sections of the Final Report: "policymakers", "opinion leaders", "public sector actors", "public sector stakeholders", "private sector actors", "private sector entities", "private sector organisations", "important partners associated with private sector target organisations", "partners", "target stakeholders", "important stakeholders" and "key public officials".

ANSWER: The Respondent opposes this request as being outside the scope of Local Rule 33.3. Subject to the Respondent's General Objections and to the extent that this request seeks names of witnesses with knowledge of information relevant to the subject matter of the action, Interamerican provides the following:

To Arnaldo Arcay

B. José Luis De Jongh-Atencio

C. Dustin Roze Boom

Mr Judith Colbert

E. Rafael Gomez

F. Edoardo Orsoni

G. Guillermo Blanco

H. Pio Gonzalez

I. José Ángel Pereira

J. Gustavo Cardenas

K. Alejandro Escarrá

L. Elio Tortolero

M. Raul Gorrín

N. Hugo Perera

O. Esther Nuhfer

Fr. Bertica Cabrera

Q. Pete's Sessions

R. David Rivera




3. Describe in detail any and all meetings, discussions and communications You have had with any employee, agent, director, officer or representative of PDV USA, PDVSA, CITGO Petroleum Corporation and/or any person associated with the Government of Venezuela, including, but not limited to, Nelson Ferrer, Ysmel Serrano, Delcy Rodríguez, Simón Zerpa and César Triana, in relation to the Agreement.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

4. Describe in detail any meetings, discussions or communications you have had with "the opposition to the anti-Maduro protests", Leopoldo López, Raúl Gorrín, Esther Nuhfer, Hugo Perera, or any Venezuelan opposition or leaders, anti-Maduro organizations, entities, parties, forces or factions, or any representative of any of the individuals, groups or entities mentioned in this interrogation, in connection with the Agreement or in relation to PDV-USA, PDVSA and/or CITGO Petroleum Corporation.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

5. Describe in detail the facts underlying the statements attributed to David Rivera in the CE Financial News article of May 13, 2020 titled "PDVSA Denounces Former U.S. Congressman for Payment of USD 15M" and in the Miami Herald article of May 14, 2020 written by Jay Weaver and Antonio María Delgado, titled "Rivera did not register as a foreign agent in a $50 million contract with Venezuelan oil company," including the following statements: "ask the guys from the CITGO 6"; "They handled all that operation, including all the money, in coordination with the Venezuelan opposition... That's all I know"; and "All those funds went to the opposition for the anti-Maduro protests in the summer of 2017. I never saw a penny of it."

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

6. Describe in detail to whom, how, when and why Interamerican or David Rivera disbursed the funds received from PDV USA or PDVSA, including, but not limited to, the detailed description of the USD 625,000 that Interamerican transferred to Krome Argonomics LLC on March 27, 2017 and the USD 3,750,000 that Interamerican transferred to Interglobal Yacht Management LLC between March 31, 2017 and April 24, 2017. Include in your description of each payment or transfer, the identity of the immediate recipient, any intended final recipients, the purpose of the payment, whether the payment was made in connection with the Agreement, and who approved the payment.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

7. Identify all bank accounts used by Interamerican or David Rivera.

ANSWER: Subject to the defendant's general objections and in agreement with the Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(d), Interamerican will produce the relevant bank account records in its possession, custody or control.


8. Describe in detail the "series of proactive measures [proposed by Interamerican] to be followed on behalf of the Client (PDVSA) that would cover areas of mutual interest between the Client and the United States", to which the entry of April 4 of the Final Resolution of Report delivered by David Rivera to Mr. Pio González on December 31 refers, 2017.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

9. Describe in detail what strategies Interamerican referred to in the "Interim Recommendations" section of the Final Report that states that "success will be determined by the Client's determination to follow up on strategies that have been implemented over the past several weeks."

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

10. Describe in detail "the stated objectives and purposes of the Consultant's proposal" referred to in the "Provisional Recommendations" section of David Rivera's Final Report for Pio González on December 31, 2017.

A: The Defendant opposes this application as inadmissible. according to Local Rule 33.3.

11. Describe in detail the "important options and steps" referenced in the portion of the May 30 section of the Final Report that reads: "The Consultant provided the Client with several important options and steps that would be necessary to pursue the original goals and objectives vis-à-vis public sector actors in the United States."

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

12. Describe in detail how the "Consultant has facilitated the development of key elements that would accelerate that positive relationship with stakeholders in the United States," including the identification of the "stakeholders in the United States" to which this refers, as indicated in the June 13 section of the Final Report.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

13. Describe in detail the "framework for a strategic action plan that can be used as a vehicle to monitor stakeholder responsiveness to the Client, as well as to channel discussions and dialogue towards the achievement of the Client's overall goals and objectives" which, according to the June 21 section of the Final Report, Interamerican provided the "Customer," including to whom the "framework" was provided and when.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

14. Describe in detail the "strategic plan" referred to in the June 21 section of the Final Report, including "multifaceted efforts both towards public sector officials and opinion leaders as well as towards specific private sector stakeholders", the "plan to support efforts to improve the Client's long-term reputation and position", and how Interamerican "developed and implemented" that plan.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

15. Describe in detail the "critical commercial communications" referred to in paragraph 14 of Interamerican's Counterclaim.

A: The Respondent opposes this application as inadmissible, according to Local Rule 33.3.

16. Describa la manera y el plazo en el que ha conservado los Documentos o Comunicaciones, incluida la información almacenada electrónicamente, que pueden ser relevantes para esta Acción.

RESPUESTA: El Demandado se opone a esta solicitud como inadmisible, según la Regla Local 33.3.

17. Identificar todos los dispositivos de almacenamiento electrónicos y no electrónicos, incluidas cuentas de correo electrónico, discos duros, discos compartidos, servidores, teléfonos inteligentes, todos los demás tipos de almacenamiento electrónico, archivadores, cajas y todos los demás tipos de almacenamiento no electrónico, en los que Los Documentos o Comunicaciones relacionados con cualquiera de los reclamos o defensas de las partes en esta Acción pueden ahora, o pueden haber sido, localizados o encontrados en el pasado.

ANSWER: Subject to the Respondent's General Objections, the Respondent declares that the following electronic and non-electronic storage devices contain documents or communications relating to the claims or defenses of the parties to this Action:

A. David Rivera account email: rivera2002@comcast.net

B. David Rivera's personal computer

C. David Rivera's WhatsApp Account

Plaintiff Complains About David Rivera's Lack of Responses

Lawyers for PDV-USA CITGO complained to the court about the lack of responses to the questionnaire sent to Interamerican Consulting, noting that "Interamerican's responses are totally inadequate and do not comply with Federal Rule Civ. Page 33 or Local Rule 33.3."

The interim's lawyers complain that David Rivera has opposed each of the interrogations declaring them "inadmissible under Local Rule 33.3."

They note that the defendant engaged in providing an unaccountable list of "witnesses with knowledge of information relevant to the subject matter of the action," agreeing to produce relevant bank account records, and providing a list of storage devices that "contain documents or communications relating to the claims or defenses of the parties to this Action."

Under Local Rule 33.3(b), interrogations may be delivered "if they are a more practical method of obtaining the requested information than a production request or a statement."

The prosecution emphasizes that "interrogations are the most practical method to obtain this information. The Plaintiff needs the requested information now so that it can make a follow-up discovery regarding the efforts Interamerican allegedly made during its three-month engagement with the Plaintiff."

If Interamerican did indeed provide actual services in exchange for the $15 million in payments it received from the Complainant and the additional $30 million it now requests, these services should be easy to identify. The plaintiff should not be forced to wait for depositions or the production of documents and his invocation of Local Rule 33.3 without any explanation justifying the objection is not a valid response to these interrogations.

In any case, Interamerican's continued evasion of response simply serves to confirm that no services were provided in accordance with the agreement.

According to the lawyers of PDV USA Inc. Interamerican Consulting Inc. has objected to answering the 17 interrogations sent on the grounds that they are premature or inadequate under Local Rule 33.3(b).

They argue that the disputed interrogations ask basic and specific questions about the consulting services allegedly provided by Interamerican as part of the contract that is the focus of the legal complaint, such as who Interamerican met with and what he did.

"In the absence of substantive answers to the contested interrogations, PDV USA has no way of knowing where to focus the discovery as this case progresses, a problem that becomes even more pressing because of the main shortcomings to date.

He maintains that Interamerican has filed just 129 documents and has not even begun conducting a forensic search of the files of its sole custodian, David Rivera.

They add that PDV USA is not moving, at this time, to compel regarding Interamerican's production of documents because it undertook to undergo a forensically sound document collection, supervised by an attorney, with a document provider. It has also committed to reproduce documents already produced for PDV USA using standard upload files with corresponding metadata.

PDV-USA's lawyers reaffirm that because Rivera has not provided answers for services rendered to PDVSA in exchange for $50 million over three months, the plaintiffs concluded that Interamerican did not provide consulting services of any kind under the Settlement.

Interamerican provided only two brief reports—even though the commitment was to provide at least seven—that referred generically to a "strategic plan," "meetings," and "recommendations," but did not describe a single element of the alleged plan, identified meeting participants or meeting discussions, or specified what recommendations were made or to whom.

Accordingly, it is critical that PDV USA be able to find out who Interamerican met with and, exactly, what services (if any) it allegedly provided under the Agreement.

To that end, on October 1, 2021, PDV USA completed seventeen interrogations, the answers to which should have been clear, but the defendant responded on November 1 of that year, only one of these interrogations and objecting to the rest.

Subsequently, the parties exchanged written correspondence in an effort to resolve the dispute. Interamerican's only objection remains its conclusive assertion.

Key trial dates

There is already a timetable approved by the parties in the PDV Holding-CITGO lawsuit against Interamerican Consulting Inc.

According to the schedule, the parties agreed that the maximum deadline for discovery, deposition and allegations of the facts expire on March 23, 2022. The experts' depositions are due on May 11, 2022, while the motions will be for June 24, 2022.

Judge John G. Köeltl signed the joint pretrial order for July 18, 2022. The court also assigned a judge for general pretrial actions—including scheduling, discovery, non-dispositive pretrial motions, and conciliation—to the judge, Robert W. Lehrbürger.

References

1)https://account.miamiherald.com/paywall/subscriber-only?resume=242707216&intcid=ab_archive

2) https://www.diariolasamericas.com/america-latina/leopoldo-lopez-demandara-legalmente-david-rivera-difamacion-n4201307

3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhldfuzulS4


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