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A former U.S. representative from Miam was arrested at Atlanta’s international airport on Monday as part of a federal criminal investigation after signing a $50 million consulting contract with the socialist government of Venezuela.
According to The Associated Press, federal agents charged David Rivera, “a Republican who has been marred by scandals stretching back to his days in Congress from 2011 to 2013,” with money laundering and representing a foreign nation without registering to do so. The arrest was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.
The AP noted: “The eight-count indictment alleges Rivera at the start of the Trump administration was part of a conspiracy to lobby on behalf of Venezuela to lower tensions with the U.S., resolve a legal dispute with a U.S. oil company, and end U.S. sanctions against the South American nation — all without registering as a foreign agent. The indictment cites meetings in Washington, New York, and Dallas that Rivera either attended or tried to set up for allies of President Nicolas Maduro with U.S. lawmakers and a top aide to former President Donald Trump. To hide the sensitive nature of his work, prosecutors allege Rivera referred to Maduro in chat messages as the “bus driver,” a congressman as “Sombrero” and millions of dollars as “melons.”
The AP added that no U.S. officials are named in the indictment, but “evidence” cited in a “parallel lawsuit” that has been brought against Rivera indicates that while he was working on behalf of Venezuela, the former lawmaker contacted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a longtime friend who was instrumental in leading the Trump administration’s “hardline policy” against the Maduro regime.
Former Miami Congressman David Rivera diverted $13 million from a Venezuelan deal to a convicted drug trafficker, among others https://t.co/mePa6NtbLG
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) April 25, 2022
David Rivera! What a corruption throwback! https://t.co/ST2PGkW3et
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) December 6, 2022
As part of a “charm offensive,” the AP continued, Rivera also attempted to set up a potential flight and meeting on a jet belonging to a pro-Maduro businessman “for a female campaign adviser turned White House ‘counselor’ on June 27, 2017,” which happened to be the same day that Trump assistant Kellyanne Conway was attending a fundraising dinner in Miami for local Republicans.
Rivera also corralled Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) in a bid to establish a meeting for the foreign minister of Venezuela with Exxon executives, which at the time were headquartered in Sessions’ congressional district, the AP reported.
“In July 2017, for example, the indictment alleges Rivera wrote in text messages to the unnamed U.S. senator ahead of a key meeting at the White House where he hoped the lawmaker would discuss with Trump a possible deal to end Venezuela’s never-ending political conflict,” the newswire reported.
Rivera noted at the time: “Remember, US should facilitate, not just support, a negotiated solution. No vengeance, reconciliation.”
The newswire reported that the pressure was building on Rivera over a two-year span after it was revealed that he had signed the massive contract with a U.S.-based affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company as Maduro was attempting to make inroads with the Trump administration.
Per the AP:
Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — for not living up to the contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting.”
Although Rivera’s contract was originally signed with a U.S. entity, any work he performed on behalf of Maduro’s government or Venezuelan business interests required him to register as a foreign lobbyist. It was something prosecutors allege Rivera acknowledged himself in October 2017 when he sent a text message relaying a lawyer’s advice not to get anywhere near parent company PDVSA in Caracas and that failure to stay away “would be a scandal of monumental proportions.” Three weeks later, prosecutors say he received a $5 million payment from PDVSA’s account at Gazprom Bank in Russia.
For his part, Rivera has countersued PDVSA, “alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he is still owed,” the news outlet reported, adding that according to the U.S. Marshal Service, he bailed himself out of jail on Monday.
Last month, President Joe Biden invited new criticism when his administration moved to lift Trump-era sanctions on Venezuela so that U.S. oil giant Chevron could resume operations there.
Republicans blasted the president for opening the door to Venezuela-based oil drilling for a U.S. company rather than allowing more domestic production and arguing that Biden is helping to enrich a totalitarian regime at the expense of American jobs and energy independence.