Official: US believes ex-Venezuela oil czar took bribes

 
 
Posted2/13/2018 7:00 AM
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  • FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2013 file photo, Venezuela's Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez attends a signing ceremony with the Russian energy company Rosneft in Caracas, Venezuela, in front of a large image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. U.S. prosecutors believe Ramirez received bribes as part of an alleged multibillion-dollar graft scheme in Venezuela's oil industry, an official familiar with the U.S. investigation said Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Ramirez has called a separate criminal Venezuelan probe retaliation for his decision to break with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, who he has accused of running Venezuela's once-thriving oil industry into the ground and abandoning the socialist ideals of the late Hugo Chavez.

    FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2013 file photo, Venezuela's Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez attends a signing ceremony with the Russian energy company Rosneft in Caracas, Venezuela, in front of a large image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. U.S. prosecutors believe Ramirez received bribes as part of an alleged multibillion-dollar graft scheme in Venezuela's oil industry, an official familiar with the U.S. investigation said Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Ramirez has called a separate criminal Venezuelan probe retaliation for his decision to break with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, who he has accused of running Venezuela's once-thriving oil industry into the ground and abandoning the socialist ideals of the late Hugo Chavez. Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia -- U.S. prosecutors believe Venezuela's former oil czar received bribes as part of a major graft scheme that allegedly took place in the OPEC nation's oil industry, says an American official familiar with the probe.

Rafael Ramirez is named as a bribe recipient although not charged in an indictment against other former officials that was partially unsealed Monday in Houston.

Prosecutors leading a widening probe into corruption at Venezuela's state-run oil giant PDVSA allege in the unsealed portion of the indictment that proceeds from bribes were shared with someone identified as "Official B."

That unidentified politician is Ramirez, a U.S. official tells The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.

Ramirez in the past has denied corruption allegations.

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