Oil businessman Abraham Shiera received a reduced sentence in the United States in 2022 after helping prosecutors expose corruption related to Venezuela

A Florida-based oilman who pleaded guilty to participating in a $1 billion conspiracy to pay bribes to Venezuelan officials has received a large reduction in sentence after providing outstanding cooperation to US prosecutors investigating corruption at the state oil monopoly. from the country.

Abraham Shiera was one of the first witnesses to come forward and cooperate with a sprawling, multi-district federal investigation into PDVSA, as the oil giant is known, after his arrest in 2016, according to a report by Joshua Goodman for the AP.

Judge Gray Miller on Thursday, October 13, 2022, sentenced Shiera, who was born in Venezuela, to 12 months and a single day in prison, well below the legal maximum of 10 years he faced after pleading guilty to two criminal counts of corruption of a foreign official. The light sentence means he is unlikely to serve much or any time behind bars.

Shiera and his business partner, Venezuelan oil magnate Roberto Rincón, were accused of paying bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts to build electricity generators for PDVSA at a time when Venezuela was suffering from widespread power cuts.

Roberto Rincón

In exchange for rigging seemingly competitive bidding processes, the two paid bribes to various officials in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in wire transfers to offshore bank accounts, a $14,502 hotel reservation at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, and , in one case, a bottle of whiskey.

It is unknown exactly who Shiera testified against as part of her cooperation. Most of the records in the case, including the government memo requesting leniency filed in 2022, have been sealed for years.

But in the years since his arrest, many other Venezuelan insiders, including a deputy energy minister and various officials working for PDVSA and its affiliates, have been indicted on similar charges.

Judge Miller, in going even short of the government's recommendation for a 55% sentence reduction, awarded Shiera what prosecutors called Shiera's "platinum" cooperation, according to a person in the courtroom who spoke under condition of anonymity to discuss the procedures.

One of the recipients of the Shiera and Rincon bribe, named in a related indictment as "Officer B," is Venezuela's former oil czar Rafael Ramírez, a US official told The Associated Press in 2018.

Ramírez, who has not been criminally charged, has denied any wrongdoing and says his political opponents, as well as overzealous US prosecutors, are promoting corruption charges that seek to dismantle the Bolivarian revolution launched by the late Hugo Chávez.

While he professes loyalty to the leftist ideals of his former boss, Ramírez is a staunch critic of Chávez's hand-picked successor, Nicolás Maduro, and has been in exile in Italy after resigning as the country's ambassador to the United Nations in 2017.

"Mr. Shiera is happy to put this matter behind us," his attorney, Daniel Fetterman, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, told the AP.

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