(Reuters) – A U.S. businessman was charged with sanctions violations and money laundering for allegedly helping Venezuela’s military repair aircraft, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Jorge Nobrega, chief executive of Miami-based Achabal Technologies Inc, was taken into custody on Sunday and is expected to appear in a Miami court on Wednesday morning, a court document filed on Monday shows.
Nobrega’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Washington has sanctioned Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, as well as other key entities and individuals affiliated with the South American country’s government as part of its push to oust President Nicolas Maduro, accused of rights violations, corruption and elections-rigging.
The investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in April 2019 opened an investigation into Nobrega for allegedly helping Venezuela’s military repair its fleet of Russian Sukhoi SU-30 combat aircraft without seeking U.S. permission, according to an investigator’s affidavit.
In an alleged attempt to hide the origin payment he received from Venezuela’s government, Nobrega allegedly opened a bank account for Achabal in Portugal, where he allegedly received “multiple payments for his services to Venezuela,” according to the affidavit.
Some of the payments allegedly came from Thai asphalt refiner Tipco Asphalt PCL, a major purchaser of PDVSA’s crude. PDVSA allegedly directed Tipco to wire money to Achabal’s Portugal account, according to the affidavit.
Nobrega’s arrest and Tipco’s alleged involvement were earlier reported on Tuesday by the Associated Press.
Neither Tipco nor PDVSA immediately responded to requests for comment. Tipco in November 2020 said it had completed a wind-down of purchases of Venezuelan crude per a request from the U.S. State Department.
Maduro frequently blasts the U.S. sanctions as a “criminal blockade” and has called on Washington to relax them.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler)