U.S. makes arrests over Venezuelan energy corruption scheme

A view of a gas station which belongs to PDVSA in Caracas August 29, 2014. Venezuela's state-run PDVSA has put on hold its plans to export diluted crude oil (DCO) in October as the company reviews production costs that have risen on imports of costly naphtha that it uses to mix with its extra heavy crude, traders told Reuters on Friday. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: ENERGY POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTR44AD8

(Reuters) - Two men including an oil equipment supply firm executive have been arrested on charges related to an alleged scheme to corruptly secure energy contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, the U.S. Justice Department said Sunday.

Roberto Rincon, the president of Texas-based Tradequip Services & Marine, was arrested on Wednesday in Houston on charges including that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and engaged in money laundering, a Justice Department spokesman said.

A second defendant, Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas of Coral Gables, Florida, was arrested on Wednesday in Miami on the same charges plus one count, said the Justice Department spokesman, Peter Carr.

The charges relate to what the Justice Department called a fraudulent and corrupt scheme to secure energy contracts from Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned energy company.

Lawyers for Rincon, 55, and Shiera, 52, could not be identified on Sunday.

Further details on the case were not immediately available. No charging documents have been made public yet.

It was also not clear if case related to Tradequip, which describes itself as an oil field supply company. The firm on its website lists PDVSA as a client, and it is registered on Venezuela’s national contractors registry.

Tradequip did not respond to a call and email seeking comment. PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Girish Gupta and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas