By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) - A unit of Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] has asked a U.S. court to order two businessmen to compensate it for carrying out a "staggering" bribery scheme that cost the company $600 million in losses.
A motion filed last Wednesday in federal court in Houston marked the first time PDVSA had formally intervened in the case, part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into bribery of company officials.
PDVSA subsidiary Bariven SA complained in court papers that prosecutors had ignored their statutory obligation to inform Bariven of its rights as a victim of a scheme by Venezuelan businessmen Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera.
Bariven sought restitution from Rincon and Shiera, who have pleaded guilty to charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
"That dereliction of its statutory duty must be promptly addressed by this Court as it has already harmed Bariven by keeping it in the dark about the case, the plea agreements and forfeitures and any requests for continuances," Bariven said.
Caracas-based PDVSA had initially described the case as part of a wider U.S.-led conspiracy and "smear campaign" against socialism in Venezuela, a member of OPEC.
But in its motion, the company said an internal probe conducted after the charges were announced determined it suffered $600 million in losses.
"The scope of this criminal enterprise is staggering," the company said.
The company asked U.S. District Judge Gray Miller to grant it victim status and set a restitution hearing before the sentencing of Rincon, Shiera and a former employee of Shiera's who has also pleaded guilty.
Rincon and Shiera are scheduled to be sentenced in June.
The U.S. Department of Justice declined comment on Monday. Lawyers for the businessmen could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prosecutors have said Rincon, who was president of Texas-based Tradequip Services & Marine, and Shiera, who lives in Miami and owned multiple U.S.-based energy companies, conspired to pay bribes to PDVSA officials to secure contracts.
From 2009 to 2014 more than $1 billion was traced to the conspiracy, with $750 million to Rincon, a Venezuelan who lives in Texas, according to court documents.
Four other people besides Rincon and Shiera have pleaded guilty to charges, including three former PDVSA officials.
The case is U.S. v. Rincon-Fernandez, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 15-cr-654
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Grant McCool)