La Patilla released new details on the Roberto Rincon case earlier today. Rincon, a Venezuelan national living in Houston, was arrested last week over allegations of money laundering and corruption stemming from business dealings with PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. Rincon appeared before a federal judge in Texas yesterday.
According to court documents released by the United States Department of Justice yesterday, Rincon is the head of a company called Tradequip Services, which sells oil equipment. At the moment, is it not known if Tradequip Services is involved in the accusations.
According to authorities, Rincon, along with another Venezuelan businessman named Jose Abraham Shiera Bastidas, conspired to bribe PDVSA officials in order to see lucrative contracts for companies they owned.
The Department of Justice claims that five unnamed PDVSA officials received hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes that included not only money but also “mortgage payments, plane tickets and in one case, whiskey“. Between 2010 to 2013, the conspiracy Rincon was involved bribed PDVSA officials to the tune of $750 million. RIncon personally paid one PDVSA official $2.5 million in bribes. The Department of Justice was able to track at least $1 billion in dirty money passing through PDVSA during that same time.
A court document made public yesterday details how out of the 730 bank accounts identified as being involved in the bribing scheme, 108 “were related to Rincon, his family and his companies”. Authorities believe that at least three Swiss bank accounts belonging to Rincon hold $100 million dollars in illegal money.
Court Document Outlines Detention Order
Rincon’s order of detention pending trial was made available by the United States District Court Southern District of Texas, and can be found here. The document contains a written statement by United States magistrate judge Nancy Johnson, and outlines some facts of the case.
According to judge Johnson, Rincon will be held in detention pending the start of his trial due to his high flight risk. Judge Johnson says that while Rincon owns a $5 million dollar mansion in the Houston are, the home “pales in comparison” to Rincon’s assets abroad. Rincon also has homes in Spain and Aruba.
The court believes Rincon has “a close personal friendship” with PSUV National Assembly deputy and suspected drug kingpin Hugo Carvajal, increasing his flight risk.
Because Rincon is believed to hold “hundreds of millions in liquid assets”, the court found setting bond at even $10 million to be reasonable, which is why it decided to hold Rincon in remand.
76 Political Prisoners Remain in the Country
According to the Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum], and NGO that works on detentions and the justice system in the country, there are 76 Venezuelans in prison today for political reasons. Among them are former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales and Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo Lopez. They are joined by students, police officers and ordinary citizens caught by the Maduro government’s security forces for allegedly taking part in anti-government activities.
El Nacional claims that of the 76, at least 14 are in “delicate health”. They include Gerardo Carrero, a student at the Universidad Catolica del Tachira, who is being held in detention by the SEBIN in its El Helicoide headquarters in Caracas. According to Carrero’s sister, Maria Jose Carrero, her brother suffers from stomach problems and skin lesions, the nature of which are unknown. Maria also said that, to make matters worse, El Helicoide has been suffering from “recurring” water and electricity outages over the past two weeks.
MUD: PSUV Attempting “Judicial Coup”
The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, announced today that the county’s top court had accepted a PSUV request to rule on the validity of the elections results in 22 districts in which MUD candidates won. Torrealba called the move “a judicial coup”, and pointed out that the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia ended its judicial year on Thursday, and was not scheduled to reconvene until January 11. Regardless, the court chose to open its doors for the PSUV request.
They’ve lost whatever little legitimacy they had left with this attitude. We’re a majority at the national level, and that majority will make itself heard sooner rather than later.
Torrealba said that a court order has blocked anyone not involved in the case from knowing the identity of the 22 deputies whose elections are being challenged.
It is not clear when exactly the TSJ will meet to decide the case, or when a ruling can be expected. However, it is likely that the court will look to have the matter resolved before the start of the National Assembly session on January 5.
Questions/Comments? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org