A trust linked to Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA has filed a lawsuit against major international energy trading firms for their alleged role funneling bribes to corrupt company officials in exchange for rigged oil purchase contracts. The civil complaint was unsealed Thursday by a federal judge in Miami and alleges the ongoing scheme cheated the socialist-run company of billions in lost revenue since 2004.
The lawsuit comes as the U.S. expands a criminal investigation into corruption at PDVSA, and the Trump administration threatens crippling oil sanctions on the country sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves. David Boies, the powerful New York attorney representing PDVSA and who is also involved in two other politically charged cases straining relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, said the lawsuit was prompted by the Venezuelan government's determination to show it takes corruption seriously.
Boies said the 60-page complaint reads like a John Grisham novel, reflecting the lawless behavior by PDVSA officials and international oil companies over more than a decade. Switzerland-based Glencore and Russia's Lukoil are named as among more than 40 defendants including rogue traders, multinational energy firms, shell companies, mid-level PDVSA officials and a Nicaraguan-owned bank in Florida The scheme to fix prices, rig bids and eliminate competition, as well as steal highly-confidential information by cloning the company's servers, was allegedly carried out by two former PDVSA traders, Francisco Morillo and Leonardo Baquero.