A dual Venezuelan-Italian citizen who controlled multiple companies via U.S. based bank accounts was charged in an indictment returned Tuesday for his role in laundering the proceeds of inflated contracts that were obtained by making bribe payments to officials at Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Tyler R. Hatcher of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Natalino D’Amato, 61, of Venezuela, was charged in an 11-count indictment filed in the Southern District of Florida. D’Amato was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, four counts of international money laundering, three counts of promotional money laundering, and three counts of engaging in transactions involving criminally derived property.
The indictment alleges that, beginning in January 2013 and continuing through December 2017, D’Amato conspired with others, including officials at joint ventures between PDVSA and various foreign companies in the oil-rich Orinoco belt of Venezuela, to launder the proceeds of an illegal bribery scheme to and from bank accounts located in South Florida. These joint ventures were majority owned and controlled by PDVSA. According to the indictment, D’Amato offered and paid bribes to numerous Venezuelan officials who worked at the PDVSA joint ventures in order to obtain highly inflated and lucrative contracts to provide goods and services to the PDVSA joint ventures. The indictment further alleges that over the course of the conspiracy, companies controlled by D’Amato received approximately $160 million from the PDVSA joint ventures into accounts he controlled in South Florida. According to the charges, D’Amato used a portion of those funds to make payments to or for the benefit of the Venezuelan officials.
The indictment also includes allegations seeking criminal forfeiture of bank accounts involved in the charged offenses, with funds totaling approximately $45 million.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the HSI Miami Field Office and IRS-CI Miami Field Office. Trial Attorney Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Berger of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne E. Rosen of the Southern District of Florida is handling asset forfeiture.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
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Author: November 25, 2020