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Former Rep. David Rivera is arrested on charges of lobbying for Venezuela : NPR


On this November 2, 2010, file photo, then-Florida Republican congressional candidate David Rivera speaks in Coral Gables, Fla. Federal authorities say Rivera broke the law in his dealings with Venezuela’s state-run oil company.

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On this November 2, 2010, file photo, then-Florida Republican congressional candidate David Rivera speaks in Coral Gables, Fla. Federal authorities say Rivera broke the law in his dealings with Venezuela’s state-run oil company.

Alan Diaz/AP

Former US Representative David Rivera, a well-connected Republican in Florida, was arrested on federal charges including failing to register as a foreign agent. The case centers on Rivera signing a $50 million contract with the Venezuelan government in early 2017 and his subsequent efforts to thaw Venezuela’s icy relationship with the United States.

“Law enforcement officers arrested David Rivera” in Atlanta on Monday, the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida told NPR by email. The office said Rivera appeared before a federal magistrate judge, adding that a federal grand jury indicted him on Nov.

The new, unsealed criminal indictment accuses Rivera of using her ties to former President Donald Trump’s members of Congress and the White House in an attempt to broker US deals with the Nicolás regime. Maduro. Accused along with Rivera is Esther Nuhfer of Miami-Dade County, a political consultant and lobbyist with a longstanding relationship with Rivera.

Rivera and his associates made millions of dollars

In early 2017, Rivera signed a consulting contract with PDV USA, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-controlled oil company in the US, according to court documents. On the Venezuelan side, the deal took place at the behest of Delcy Rodriguez, a senior executive of the state oil company and minister of foreign affairs (she later became Venezuela’s vice president).

According to the federal indictment, the contract requires Interamerican, a company run by Rivera outside of his home, to receive five payments of $5 million, followed by a final payment of $25 million. dollars – all within three months. But the timeframe covered by the deal extended into 2018.

Venezuela wants Rivera to lobby politicians to build support to normalize relations with the US, help resolve a controversial trade issue with an American oil company, and allow its regime Mr. Maduro and his relatives avoided a new round of sanctions, the indictment states.

Instead of registering as foreign agents, court filings say, Rivera and Nuhfer sought to “illegally enrich themselves” while influencing U.S. policy toward Venezuela and present themselves as advisor to the U.S. branch of the Venezuelan oil company, not an agent of the Venezuelan government.

Identity obscured in court papers

The federal indictment does not disclose the names of several key US officials who are said to have repeatedly met or communicated with Rivera about Venezuelan interests. For example, two legislators are named “U.S. Congressman 1,” from Texas, and U.S. Senator 1,” from Florida.

In encrypted emails and text messages, Rivera and his contacts used a series of pseudonyms and passwords with the express purpose of concealing the details of their conversations. , the federal indictment said.

For example, they call Maduro El Guaguero — a reference to his famous rise to power from his days as a bus driver. U.S. Congressman 1 has been dubbed the “Sombrero,” while money has at least two euphemisms: La Luzor light, means money in general, while watermelon (melon) cost millions of dollars, according to the document.

The indictment refers to Rivera’s communication with “White House Counsel One,” who is described as a woman who served as “a senior adviser to the President of the United States.”

In a message sent to a group chat in June 2017, Rivera asked about the possibility of a White House official traveling on a private jet. Two days later, he urged everyone in the chat to prioritize meeting with Trump’s “advisor” — apparently a reference to Kellyanne Conway, who held that title under Trump.

Rivera said the adviser was “more important” than then-Vice President Pence in Trump’s White House, “because she made him the president who directs his campaign. And she does. working with him every day.”

In another message from September 2017, Rivera said: “I just spoke with our friend back in the White House. She told me she’s ready to help in any way she can. The Light. The faster it arrives, the faster the engine will start.”

Civil case holds details and clues about identity

When the deal didn’t produce the breakthroughs Rivera had promised, PDV USA sued the former member of Congress in a US court for $15 million and said it wasn’t obligated to pay the rest of the bill. contract for him. Rivera countersued, saying he still owes another $30 million.

Delcy Rodriguez, vice president of Venezuela, during an interview with Bloomberg Television in Caracas, Venezuela, on June 11, 2021.

Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images


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Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US PDV lawsuit says Rivera’s helpers include Representative Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas. It was Sessions, the company’s civil complaint states, that sought to help Rivera arrange a meeting between Exxon, Rodriguez and other Venezuelan officials.

“In any event, the meeting with Exxon never took place,” the complaint states. But another high-profile meeting took place: in April 2018, Sessions was said to have been away on business. “secret peace trip to Venezuela,” where he met Maduro.

The US indictment alleges that the unnamed “U.S. Senator No. 1” attended meetings at a private home and a hotel in Washington, DC, to discuss Venezuela – including at least one case where the senator was ready to meet with Trump to discuss Venezuela the next morning.

That senator was not identified in the indictment or civil complaint. But some news agencies is noting that Rivera has long been a close friend of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Representatives for Rivera and Sessions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Rubio said in a statement to NPR that during a July 2017 meeting, Rivera told Rubio that Maduro’s close associate, Raul Gorrín, wanted to personally deliver a letter from Maduro to Trump “outline” draft an agreement to hold free and fair elections and withdraw from power.” During a briefing in Washington, Mr. Gorrin “did not issue such a letter and did not even mention the possibility possibility of any such agreement,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: “As the indictment makes clear, Mr Rivera and associates ‘never disclosed to any US official they met that they were lobbying on behalf of the Government. government of Venezuela'”. The spokesman said Rubio has not changed his position that sanctions should only be lifted if free and fair elections are held in Venezuela.

Court papers alleging a “sham”

Court records show that U.S. officials have unique requirements for any potential deal, including seeking assurances that Maduro will honor the results of free democratic elections. do. Maduro has refused to make such guarantees.

PDV US court filings provide some insight into Rivera’s activities, drawn from affidavits and evidence discoveries in the case. For one thing, the company alleges that Rivera passed millions of dollars to Nuhfer and other associates, in so-called payments to subcontractors.

From the civil complaint:

These purported associates and subcontractors include Raul Gorrín, a pro-Maduro billionaire who has been indicted in the United States for his role in a massive bribery and money laundering operation, Hugo Perera, a convicted drug dealer currently under criminal investigation [for the PDV contract] … and Esther Nuhfer and her purposeful political consulting firm: Media Solutions.”

PDV USA said it was “aware of illegal Interamerican conduct”, alleging that its contract was unenforceable because it was based on a “sham”.

Providing some insight into how the Justice Department may have developed part of the case against him, Rivera said in a testimony related to the civil case this past summer that the FBI informed tell him that “Mr. Perera has been an informant for the FBI since December 2019.”

In addition to her international troubles, Rivera also recently lost a lengthy lawsuit against Federal Election Commission, alleging he made $75,927.31 in campaign contributions in the name of someone else. He was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $456,000 in that case.

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