The US government has asked the court to sentence Carmelo Urdaneta, a consultant to the Caribbean country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mines, to 10 years in prison. He was also fined US$35,000.
Venezuelan lawyer Carmelo Urdaneta Here, accused of conspiring to launder more than US$1.2 billion as part of a conspiracy involving the national oil company PDVSA, was sentenced on Thursday in Miami (Florida) to four years in prison, less than half of a year.
The US prosecutor requested it.
In a memorandum obtained by Efe on Tuesday, the US government asked the court to sentence Urdaneta, who was an adviser to the country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mines, to 10 years in prison, but was eventually sentenced to four more years according to the Miami Herald.
The US memo said the Venezuelan was “a sophisticated public servant with a law degree who conspired to launder more than $1.2 billion through accounts in the United States.”
In a federal court in Miami, Judge Catherine Williams also fined Urdaneta $35,000 and approved the seizure of $49 million worth of assets from the lawyer, including a luxury flat in Switzerland and a bank account.
Urdaneta is one of the defendants in a case that opened in the United States in an alleged conspiracy that began in December 2014 and led to the misappropriation of some US$1.2 billion through bribery and fraud by Venezuelan state company PDVSA.
According to the indictment, which dates back to 2018, the intention was to “launder” part of the amount through real estate acquisitions and bogus investments in Miami.
The conspiracy allegedly involved financiers, real estate companies, banks and brokerage firms in the US and elsewhere.
According to court documents obtained by Efe, Urdaneta entered into an agreement with the US Attorney’s Office in July 2021 to plead guilty to “conspiracy to commit money laundering”.
The defendant personally received more than “$49 million in bribes in exchange for his corrupt actions and decisions as legal advisor to the Venezuelan Ministry of Petroleum, the Venezuelan ministry responsible for overseeing Venezuelan-owned and controlled oil entities.”
The country’s Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (‘PDVSA’),” the prosecutor’s office said.
In a memorandum signed by prosecutor Juan Antonio González and Lorinda Laryea, who is in charge of the fraud department of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the court was told that “such conduct by senior Venezuelan officials should be appropriately sanctioned. ”
Urdaneta turned himself in to authorities upon arrival on a flight to Miami in 2020 and was released on $1.5 million bail.
Court documents show that Francisco Convit Guruceaga, José Vicente Amparan Croquer, Abraham Edgardo Ortega, Gustavo Adolfo Hernández Frieri, Hugo Andre Ramalho Gois Matthias Krull and Marcelo Federico Gutiérrez were named in the same charge.
In 2018, Krull, a German national living in Panama, and Hernández Frieri, a Colombian nationalised American arrested in Italy, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In addition to the United States, several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, are involved in the investigation of this case.
Under the cooperation agreement with the prosecutor’s office, Urdaneta, 48, only pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to launder money charge, as the other two charges had been dropped.
Federal prosecutors Kurt Lunkenheimer and Paul Hayden wrote in their sentencing memorandum that “sophisticated public servants with law degrees should resist the temptation to pay bribes.”