• Maibort Petit

Government Systemic Corruption

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 2021

Daniel Comoretto: The former PDVSA manager who facilitated asphalt deals in exchange for bribes

The former official is allegedly involved in other corruption cases. By Maibort Petit

The corruption that prevails in the Venezuelan system is manifested at all levels and in all instances. From the highest positions to middle positions are used as niches to deplete the public patrimony, being Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) one of the state-owned enterprises that has served as a fund for many bureaucrats and officials to enrich themselves with public money.

An example of the latter is Daniel Comoretto Gómez, a former commercial manager of the state-owned oil company who was involved in a corrupt plot in which, along with other officials and agents of private companies, he obtained undue profits from bribes that Sargeant Marine Inc. canceled in exchange for the approval of millionaire asphalt supply contracts with PDVSA.

Comoretto Gomez was arrested on September 10, 2020 following an investigation by the FBI and New York judicial authorities.

But when inquiring about the former official, it is possible to find reference to other corruption cases in which he was allegedly involved. For example, the account "Corruption naked" on the social network Facebook of the Dominican lawyer, Rafael Antonio Guerrero, is mentioned on December 31, 2018, as "director of PDV Caribe in Haiti, Venezuelan, Married, passport No. 084534750, resident in Santo Domingo. He received with his wife AL GHYS KARINA DE LOS RÍOS DELGADO, Venezuelan, passport No. 055918897, from the hands of SANG MIN CHOI (SEMI CHOI), Korean, married, personal identity card No. 001-1267666-3 a luxurious apartment in the exclusive sector of Naco, valued at USD$ 230,000; to favor the company ESD Engineering & Services, SRL and/or Sang Min Choi (Semi Choi) its president; with the award of a contract for more than $11 million."

Comoretto pleads guilty

In the case at hand, Daniel Comoretto Gomez pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to one count of conspiracy to commit money in money laundering in the context of a scheme to accept bribes in exchange for helping asphalt companies obtain and retain business with PDVSA. This happened on January 27, 2021

He admitted that between 2011 and 2015, he and another second PDVSA employee, Hector Nunez Troyano, received bribes from Sargeant Marine Inc. and another anonymous asphalt company, in exchange for assisting those companies in their purpose of obtaining contracts for the purchase of asphalt from PDVSA.

Comoretto Gómez's confession refers to the fact that the aforementioned asphalt companies paid a foreign agent named, David Díaz, a commission of approximately 45 cents for each barrel of asphalt purchased from PDVSA. In turn, Diaz allocated a portion of his commission to bribe Comoretto, Nunez and other unidentified. The payments were concealed by sending the funds to shell companies belonging to Díaz and Núñez.

Before Daniel Comoretto, sargeant Marine had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions. Sargeant Marine agreed to pay a criminal fine of USD 16.6 million[1].

Since September 2020, he has been out on bail, as revealed in a communication his defense attorney, Leticia M. Olivera, made to Judge Eric N. Vitaliano on April 29, 2021.

Olivera referred him to the judge who made the request for modification of the conditions of Release of Daniel Comoretto, with the consent of the government and the U.S. Pretrial Services. The defendant was asked to be allowed to travel within Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, on the grounds of living in Chattanooga, near the Alabama-Georgia border.

The charges

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Seth D. Ducharme and The Chief of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice's Fraud Section, Daniel S. Kahn, filed charges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Daniel Comoretto Gomez for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering.

To support the money laundering charge, pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code, Sections 1956(h) and 3551 et seq., between 2011 and October 2015, within the Eastern District of New York, as well as elsewhere, Daniel Comoretto Gomez, along with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to transport , transmit and transfer monetary instruments and funds in the United States from a location outside this country with the purpose of promoting the performance of one or more illegal activities.

It is stated that the defendant, knowing that the money was the proceeds of an illicit activity, concealed and disguised its nature, location, source, property, as provided in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(2)(B)(i).

With respect to the allegation of criminal confusion, the defendant was informed that States will seek forfeiture of his property, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 982(a)(1), when someone is convicted of such an offense.

It is warned that if any of the confiscated properties cannot be located; has been transferred, sold or deposited with a third party; has been placed outside the jurisdiction of the court; has decreased substantially in value; or has been mixed with other goods that cannot be divided without difficulty; the United States will seek forfeiture of any other defendant property.

The admission of Sargeant Marine

Specifically, on September 20, 2020, Sargeant Marine Inc. admitted to judicial authorities that it had paid bribes to officials of the governments of Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, the latter being Daniel Comoretto one of these. Their goal in this corruption scheme was to obtain state contracts.

The plot would involve a former Oil Operator from Switzerland-based Vitol accused of paying $870,000 in bribes to former Ecuadorian officials between 2015 and 2020 in exchange for fuel contracts. There is no mention in the indictment of Vitol, a company that in 2015 bought half of Sargeant Marine.

According to prosecutors in the case, Sargeant Marine and its subsidiaries paid bribes between 2010 and 2018 in exchange for contracts with state-owned oil companies in the three South American countries, which had left-wing governments at the time. The Boca Raton, Florida-based company earned more than $38 million in profits from paying the bribes.

Daniel Sargeant, former director of Sargeant Marine, pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy to launder money and to breaking the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits U.S. companies from making payments to foreign officials in exchange for obtaining business.

It was learned that false consulting contracts and fictitious invoices were used in the plot to remunerate intermediaries[2].

References [1] Willkie Compliance. "Former PDVSA manager pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy in connection with foreign bribery scheme". January 27, 2021. https://complianceconcourse.willkie.com/articles/news-alerts-2021-01-january-20210127-former-pdvsa-manager-pleads-guilty [2] AP. "U.S. firm admits it paid bribes in Brazil and Venezuela." September 23, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/finanzas-02b7d467706f19f531f365f9a73a8e9e author: Maibort Petit at 16:53 No comments: Send by emailWrite a blogShare with TwitterShare with FacebookShare on Pinterest Tags: blog Maibort petit, corruption pdvsa, Transnational Organized Crime, Daniel Comoretto Gomez, Daniel Sargeant, David Diaz, money laundering, Maibort petit PDVSA, Sargeant Marine Inc., Vitol

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