A former senior executive of Venezuela’s state oil company pleaded guilty on Wednesday in US court for his role in laundering more than $1 billion looted from the firm.
It is the latest development in the far-reaching scam that siphoned funds from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the principal source of income in the country now suffering economic collapse and massive inflation.
The scheme involved ‘complicit money managers, brokerage firms, banks and real estate investment firms in the United States and elsewhere, operating as a network of professional money launderers,’ as well as members of the Venezuelan elite, sometimes known as ‘boliburgues,’ the Justice Department said.
Abraham Edgardo Ortega, 51, PDVSA’s former executive director of financial planning, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, the US Justice Department announced. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 9, in a Miami courtroom.
Ortega admitted to taking $17 million in bribes, in part to ‘give priority loan status to a French company and a Russian bank, which were both minority shareholders in joint ventures with PDVSA.’
He also laundered funds through a false investment scheme. 
On Monday, a former executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, Matthias Krull, a 44-year-old German resident of Panama, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the money laundering scheme.
Under President Nicolas Maduro, the country is facing dire shortages of basic goods like food and medicine, and skyrocketing inflation projected to soar over 1 million percent this year, reaching an unreal 10 million percent in 2019.