U.S. judge rules former Venezuelan oil
minister owes $1.4 billion
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[February 15, 2019]
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge
in Houston ordered a former Venezuelan oil minister this week to pay the
owners of a defunct Houston oil company $1.4 billion in damages in a
fraud suit, although it is unclear if or how the payment will ever be
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal issued the default judgment on
Wednesday after Rafael Ramirez did not contest Harvest Natural
Resources' claims, according to an opinion accompanying the ruling.
James Edmiston, Harvest Natural's former chief executive and director,
said on Thursday he was pleased with the order. Whether the shareholders
of Harvest will ever receive a payment from Ramirez "is the $1.4 billion
question," he said.
Ramirez, in a message to Reuters, said he was not surprised by the
order, but declined further comment.
Harvest's suit claimed Venezuela refused to allow the company to sell
its assets in the country from 2012, leading it to lose $472 million. It
accused Ramirez and others of seeking a $10 million bribe to approve the
Rosenthal initially awarded Harvest $472 million in damages in December,
an amount he tripled this week.
[to top of second column]
Venezuela's representative to the United Nations Rafael Ramirez
speaks to a reporter at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York,
U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz
Ramirez was appointed energy minister by late Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, serving in that job until 2014. He later was the
country's ambassador to the United Nations, but left after being
accused of corruption by Venezuelan officials amid a purge of
executives at state oil firm PDVSA.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
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