DOJ Charges Ten Individuals for Violating Venezuelan Sanctions

On April 22, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of 10 Venezuelan individuals for conspiring to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act (“IEEPA”). According to the DOJ, the individuals conspired to decade U.S. sanctions imposed on Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (“PDVSA”) in January 2019. In April 2024, one of the defendants was arrested upon arrival at Miami’s internal Airport. 

The Violations

According to the indictment, between January 2019 and December 2021, the defendants orchestrated an illegal scheme to buy U.S. origin aircraft parts to service PDVSA’s fleet in Venezuela. The defendants did not disclose to U.S. companies that the goods’ final destination would be Venezuela and PDVSA. The defendants led the U.S. companies to believe that the goods’ final destination would be a company based in Costa Rica (Novax Group S.A.) and another one based in Spain (Aerofalcon). They accomplished this by submitting false, doctored, and/or misleading export information, for which they are also charged. 

The following individuals were indicted: 

  • Individuals associated with PDVSA: Gilberto Ramon Araujo Prieto, 54, a PDVSA air transport manager and colonel in the Venezuelan military; Guillermo Ysrael Marval Rivero, 62, and Fernando Jose Blequett Landaeta, 52, both PDVSA air transport managers and logistics analysts responsible for procurement; and Semerene, PDVSA’s head of logistics, procurement and warehousing.
  • Individuals associated with Novax: Luis Alberto Duque Carvajal, 63, of San Jose, Costa Rica, the owner of Novax; Melvin Aleman Espinoza, 39, Novax’s director of operations; Mikhail Largin, 60, Novax’s director of special projects; and Pedro Elias Sucre Salazar, 58, a Novax employee located in Venezuela.
  • Individuals associated with Aerofalcon: Juan Carlos Gonzalez Perez, 60, the owner of Aerofalcon; and Juan David Guerra Viera, 54, a director for Aerofalcon.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) has since added both of these companies on the Entity List.  Additionally, BIS has announced that it is also investigating the matter. 

At last, this indictment is a call to action for entities and individuals that the U.S. authorities are actively investigating and looking for violations of U.S. sanctions and export control laws. This case is also a reminder for companies to conduct enhanced due diligence for operations abroad, to screen and determine who is the end user in a certain transaction. Failing to conduct adequate due diligence may lead to investigations and sanctions by the U.S. authority. Ultimately, this indictment also sends a message to non-U.S. companies that they are still subject to U.S. sanctions if they are in possession of U.S. origin goods.

Should you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us. 

Matt Stankiewicz, Partner, and Daniela Melendez, Associate, provide the latest updates on the Venezuela Sanctions Program. Matt can be reached at [email protected] and Daniela can be reached at [email protected].

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