Ex-Venezuela mayor surrenders in Miami for oil bribe scheme
MIAMI (AP) — A one-time ally of Hugo Chávez wanted for prosecution by his socialist successor Nicolás Maduro has quietly surrendered in Miami in connection to a major bribery scheme involving joint oil ventures with foreign partners.
Jhonnathan Marín was serving as mayor of the port city of Guanta in 2017 when he abruptly resigned and fled the country amid a major purge at state run oil giant PDVSA. Later, Maduro’s government ordered his arrest on corruption charges and banned him from running for public office.
He was last believed to be living in Mexico but surfaced in Miami on April 25, where he surrendered and was released the same day on a $100,000 bond, according to court records.
According to a criminal complaint, which has not been previously reported, Marín helped pay bribes on behalf of an unnamed co-conspirator who was awarded tens of millions of dollars in contracts from state run oil giant PDVSA’s joint ventures with Chevron, France’s Total and firms from Russia and China.
As part of the scheme, Marín between 2015 and 2018 allegedly helped transfer more than $1.2 million from a bank account in Miami to one in Panama for the benefit of two unnamed Venezuelan officials.
He was charged with a single count of conspiring to commit an offense against the U.S., a lesser charge which carries a maximum term of 5 years in prison.
There’s no indication in the complaint that any of PDVSA’s foreign partners participated or were even aware of the bribery scheme.
Marín, 43, was an early adherent to Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement and in 2008 was elected mayor of Guanta, a city at the gateway to the Orinoco Oil Belt, home to the world’s largest oil reserves and about half of Venezuela’s current production.
He is being represented by Michael Nadler, a former federal prosecutor in Miami who made a name for himself targeting corruption in Maduro’s inner circle. Nadler declined to comment but Marín in the past has rejected the accusations levied by Maduro’s allies as part of a political vendetta based on falsified evidence.
“We have nothing to hide,” he said in a video posted on social media in 2019. “On the contrary, this action provides us with an opportunity to say many things.”
Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman