HomeNewsFormer Rep. David Rivera of Florida arrested in Venezuela probe

Former Rep. David Rivera of Florida arrested in Venezuela probe

WASHINGTON — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist authorities was arrested Monday in reference to an ongoing federal legal investigation, regulation enforcement officers advised The Related Press.

David Rivera, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2013, was arrested at Atlanta’s airport, stated Marlene Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace in Miami. She stated Rivera was indicted by a Miami grand jury final month, however that doc stays sealed and she or he couldn’t talk about the costs.

Stress has been constructing on Rivera for greater than two years after it emerged that he acquired the huge contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm as President Nicolas Maduro was attempting to curry favor with the White Home within the early days of the Trump administration.

Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — alleging the previous congressman carried out no work as a part of the contract he signed in 2017 for 3 months of “strategic consulting” meant to construct bridges with key U.S. stakeholders.

Rivera, 57, has maintained his innocence and has countersued PDV USA alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he’s nonetheless owed.

The U.S. Marshals Service stated Rivera bailed out of jail Monday afternoon after making an preliminary look in Atlanta federal court docket. His lawyer, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to remark, telling The AP in a textual content message that he had “not seen the indictment.”

Though Rivera’s contract was with a U.S. entity, any work he carried out on behalf of Maduro’s authorities or Venezuelan enterprise pursuits would have required him to register as a international lobbyist, which he didn’t.

Across the time Rivera was employed, Maduro’s authorities was in search of to court docket Donald Trump’s administration, donating $500,000 to his inaugural committee by means of Citgo and initially avoiding outright criticism of the brand new U.S. president who had a penchant for befriending different strongmen, together with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

The allure offensive in the end failed, as Trump in 2019 acknowledged opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s reliable chief and imposed stiff oil sanctions on the OPEC nation in a bid to unseat Maduro.

Data that emerged as a part of the continuing lawsuit present that Rivera’s consulting work was intently coordinated with Raul Gorrin — a Venezuelan insider and media tycoon who has been sanctioned and indicted within the U.S. on cash laundering costs.

Correspondence launched as a part of the lawsuit reveals Rivera and Gorrin discussing shopping for “live performance tickets” — a doable code phrase for bribes — to unnamed officers and making an attempt to coordinate a gathering between Venezuela’s international minister and executives from the U.S. oil firm Exxon.

As a part of that effort, in addition they roped in Republican Rep. Pete Periods, whose former Dallas district was residence to Exxon and who secretly traveled to Venezuela in 2018 to fulfill with Maduro.

A few of the $15 million in funds that Rivera acquired as a part of the contract have been transferred to 2 of his associates in addition to a Miami firm, Interglobal Yacht Administration, which PDV USA alleges was used to pay for upkeep on one in every of Gorrin’s superyachts.

To justify the massive funds, PDV USA allegedly created “phony contracts” backdated to March 20, 2017 — the day earlier than the consulting settlement took impact.

Rivera’s consulting contract had all of the hallmarks of a sham, in accordance with PDV USA, which since 2019 has been run by administrators appointed by the U.S.-backed opposition.

In response to the lawsuit, Rivera’s Interamerican made simply $9,500 within the yr earlier than being picked, out of the blue, by Maduro loyalists with none due diligence. Rivera by no means met in particular person with anybody from Citgo or PDV USA whereas supposedly engaged on its behalf. As an alternative, he filed two “poor and incoherent” progress reviews of the seven he was required to submit.

“The written file is bereft of any proof that Interamerican carried out any of the contracted providers,” PDV USA argues within the new filings. “There may be not a single electronic mail, a single PowerPoint presentation, a single define, a single memorandum, a single calendar entry, or the rest suggesting that Interamerican ever carried out any of the providers.”

Earlier than being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking Florida legislator, serving from 2003 to 2010 within the Home. Throughout that point he shared a Tallahassee residence with present U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who finally turned Florida Home speaker.

Rivera has been embroiled in a number of election-related controversies since then, together with orchestrating the stealth funding of an unknown Democratic candidate to tackle his most important rival in a South Florida congressional race and a state investigation into whether or not he hid a $1 million contract with a playing firm. That probe additionally concerned doable misuse of marketing campaign funds to pay for state Home actions already reimbursed by the state.

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