December 1, 2020

DOJ announces money laundering charges in international bribery case

On November 24, 2020, Natalino D’Amato, a dual Venezuelan and Italian citizen, was charged in the Southern District of Florida with one count of conspiracy to launder money, four counts of international laundering of monetary instruments, three counts of money laundering, and three counts of engaging in transactions in criminally derived property. 

According to the indictment, d’Amato owned one Nevis-based company and four Venezuela-based companies that sold goods and services to five joint-venture subsidiaries of the Venezuelan state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).  D’Amato is alleged to have bribed officials at the PDVSA subsidiaries in order to obtain and retain business for the companies he controlled.  The scheme, as described in the indictment, included payment by d’Amato in exchange for internal procurement information, advance notice of contract solicitations, and assistance obtaining lucrative and often inflated procurement contracts, and help receiving payment for these contracts, resulting in the transfer of over $160 million to Florida Mercantil Bank accounts controlled by d’Amato’s companies between 2013 and 2017, followed by instructions from the PDVSA subsidiary officials regarding the transfer of at least $7 million out of the Mercantil Bank to the officials’ own accounts in foreign countries, and over $385,000 to accounts within the US.

In addition to the eleven-count indictment, the US seeks forfeiture of approximately $45 million in d’Amato’s bank account and accounts held by two of the companies he controls. 

US Dept of the Treasury press release | Indictment