Former Chavez ally sentenced to jail in Miami

MIAMI (HPD) — A former ally of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in South Florida to just over two years in prison for conspiring to commit a crime against the United States through a plot to corrupt deals with the state oil company PDVSA and some of its subsidiaries.

Federal Judge Robert Scola sentenced Jhonnathan Marín to 27 months in prison after accepting a motion proposed by the prosecution to reduce his sentence for having “substantially assisted” the US government in other corruption investigations.

The maximum sentence Marin faced was about five years in prison.

Defendants often strike deals with the prosecution with the aim of obtaining a lighter sentence in exchange for helping the government with key information. Through these agreements, they usually plead guilty, as Marín did when accepting the accusations of illicit association to commit money laundering.

Marín, 44, was mayor of the Venezuelan port city of Guanta for nearly a decade until he resigned in 2017. He fled his country amid a major purge at state oil company PDVSA and the government of Nicolás Maduro – which succeeded Chavez’s – ordered his arrest for corruption and prohibited him from holding public office.

Marin had admitted to accepting some $3.8 million in bribes from an unnamed partner to influence officials of PDVSA’s joint ventures with Chevron and European, Russian and Chinese companies. In June he had pleaded guilty.

In the 30-minute hearing, Judge Scola told Marín that he must turn himself in to prison authorities on April 27, 2023 at noon. The Venezuelan has two weeks to appeal the sentence, if he wishes to do so.

Requesting a light sentence in an 11-page document filed days before the judge’s decision, Marin’s attorney, Michael Nadler, asked the magistrate to consider several factors, including his client’s “limited and unusual” role in the conspiracy, considering that it had no control or authority to grant or guarantee contracts with PDVSA.

He indicated that as mayor of a city where PDVSA had important operations, Marín had connections and used them to introduce an unidentified contractor and officials of the state oil company. He was present at meetings where business details were negotiated, the lawyer said, and he took a percentage of the money provided to the PDVSA official who approved the contract, but he did not execute or approve that agreement.

The defense also said that Marín dedicated “his money, his time and his connections” to the efforts led by the United States so that the Maduro government sits down to negotiate with the opposition to call democratic elections.

According to documents that appear in the online file, the contracts included projects in the Orinoco Oil Belt in which companies such as the American Chevron or the French Total participated.

In the United States he would have laundered more than 1.2 million dollars that he transferred from a bank in Miami to another in Panama.

According to the documents, Marin received the bribes in exchange for business advantages and for helping companies secure contracts from PDVSA subsidiaries.

The prosecution has also requested that Marin return the $3.8 million he received in bribes, and the judge included that request in his sentence.

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