A business executive who controlled multiple energy companies that supplied equipment to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has been arrested in the latest case to spill out of a broad U.S. bribery investigation.
Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, 48, was arrested on Tuesday at Miami International Airport on charges he conspired to make corrupt payments to a PDVSA official in exchange for favorable business treatment, the U.S. Justice Department said.
He was arrested based on a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Houston and appeared on Wednesday before a federal magistrate judge in Miami, according to court records.
A lawyer for Gonzalez, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. PDVSA also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gonzalez is the 17th person to face U.S. charges as part of a larger investigation by the Justice Department into bribery at Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) that became public with the arrest of two Venezuelan businessmen in December 2015.
According to the prosecutors, Gonzalez paid at least $629,000 in bribes to a former PDVSA official from 2012 to 2013 in exchange for the official helping Gonzalez's companies secure contracts and gain priority over other vendors to receive payments.
The official was not identified by name in court papers but was described as a Venezuelan who served as general manager at PDVSA's procurement unit, Bariven, and who had already pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money.
In total, 12 people have pleaded guilty to date in connection with the investigation, according to the Justice Department.