Former Venezuelan official pleads guilty in connection with international bribery and money laundering scheme

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HOUSTON – A dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen and former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation has pleaded guilty for his role in laundering millions of dollars in bribes and corruptly providing business advantages.

Citgo is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA),.

Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio, 48, was the former procurement officer and manager in Citgo’s Special Projects Group.

According to court documents, between 2013 and 2019, De Jongh accepted over $7 million in bribe payments in exchange for assisting businessmen and related companies in procuring contracts with Citgo. He also provided them with other business advantages.

Two of the businessmen included Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino (Gonzalez), a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez (Farias), a Venezuelan national and Houston resident.

De Jongh admitted to directing bribe payments from Gonzalez and Farias and others into bank accounts in the names of shell companies he controlled in Panama and Switzerland. In some instances, he also directed the creation of fake invoices to justify the payments. De Jongh laundered the bribe proceeds through U.S. and international bank accounts and used the funds to purchase real property located in the Houston area. In addition to monetary payments, De Jongh also received bribes in the form of gifts and other things of value from Gonzalez and Farias and others including tickets to a 2014 World Series Game, Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, and a U2 concert.

Gonzalez and Farias also entered guilty pleas in connection with the case.

De Jongh pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Sentencing is set for Aug. 19.

De Jongh faces up to 20 years in prison.

As part of his plea, De Jongh also agreed to forfeit over $3 million seized from his bank accounts and 15 properties he purchased with his corrupt proceeds.