Miami businessman Jorge Nobrega pleads guilty to helping Venezuela evade sanctions – CBS Miami
MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – A Miami businessman has pleaded guilty in federal court to receiving payments from the Venezuelan government and maintaining the country’s fleet of Russian fighter jets in violation of U.S. sanctions .
A visibly nervous Jorge Nobrega admitted in court on Tuesday that as part of the plot to violate US sanctions, he was paid the equivalent of around $3.5 million by state oil giant PDVSA into an account which he had opened in a bank in Portugal.
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As part of his guilty plea, he said the payments came from accounts belonging to Tipco, a major Thai asphalt company that is a longtime customer of PDVSA. Publicly listed company Tipco, whose role in helping Venezuela circumvent US sanctions was investigated by The Associated Press in 2020, has not been charged.
The case against Venezuelan-American dual nationality stands out from a host of other ongoing criminal investigations focused on the South American country, as it is one of the first to look into the actions of the military Venezuelan, a key element of support for President Nicolás Maduro.
Announcing the charges last year, prosecutors said Nobrega, 52, had been to several Venezuelan airbases, flown in military planes and had friends in the military. His Florida-registered company, Achabal Technologies, sold the Venezuelan military firefighting foam to insulate the fuel tanks of its fleet of Sukhoi fighter jets to prevent them from exploding under enemy fire.
In a taped meeting with an unidentified informant, Nobrega reportedly bragged about meeting Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and likened the technique to a form of ‘dialysis’ that would save Venezuela costs. sending the fleet to Russia for maintenance.
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Nobrega owed money to PDVSA for work he did for the oil giant before the United States imposed sanctions in January 2019 to force Maduro out. But the payments were conditional on him providing further services to the Venezuelan military.
Under the guidance of co-conspirators, he opened a bank account in Portugal from which he received payments from Tipco on behalf of PDVSA between March 2019 and March 2020. About half of the amount received was then transferred to Achabal’s bank accounts in Miami. Documents obtained by the AP show that two other US-registered vendors not affiliated with Nobrega received an additional $4.1 million in the same way.
U.S. sanctions on Venezuela prohibit U.S. companies — and those who assist them — from doing business with PDVSA except with a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Additionally, any export of military equipment or services required State Department approval, which Achabal did not have.
Nobrega faces a maximum of five years in prison.
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