Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is suing several U.S. energy trading firms for allegedly bribing corrupt officials and rigging bid proceedings, the corporation's defense lawyer has announced.
Helsinge, a small Florida-based company, allegedly obtained confidential information on PDVSA and bribed the state's top oil executives into selling petroleum products at below market value.
According to PDVSA, Helsinge was able to convince a PDVSA IT administrator – alias 'The Nerd' – to install "clone servers" in their Miami offices. This provided full access to Venezuela's oil data, enabling the U.S. firm to eliminate competition and future tenders.
The information was then shared with other leading trading companies, or 'Oil Company Co-Conspirators' as described by the lawsuit, such as Lukoil Petroleum Ltd; Colonial Oi1 Industries, Inc; Glencore Ltd, Vitol SA [VITOLV.UL]; and Trafigura AG [TRAFGF.UL].
Helsinge was prohibited from working directly with PDVSA, so it charged international oil companies a monthly retainer of between US$15,000 and US$150,000 as well as an additional US$0.22 per barrel on all business transactions, the lawsuit states.
Lawyers claim two Miami residents and ex-employees of PDVSA were behind the bid-rigging, while Panamanian shell companies were used to pay bribes to four other PDVSA managers.
"I think this lawsuit… illustrates the extent to which PDVSA and the Republic of Venezuela are now prepared to go after corruption regardless of who the people involved are," said David Boies, chairman of law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which is charged with representing the PDVSA U.S. Litigation Trust.