New US Corruption Probe Targets Venezuelan Company With Connections To Joe Kennedy

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The U.S. government has launched a series of corruption probes into Venezuela’s state-owned oil company that has strong ties to a charity group run by liberal elite Joseph Kennedy.

U.S. investigators are looking into Venezuelan officials are using Petróleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) to “loot billions of dollars from the country through kickbacks and other schemes,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The probe is also “attempting to determine whether PdVSA and its foreign bank accounts were used for other illegal purposes, including black-market currency schemes and laundering drug money,” sources told The WSJ.

This may not be good news for Citizens Energy Corporation, a charity run by Joseph Kennedy. that’s been getting cheap oil from a PdVSA subsidiary. CEC uses financial returns from commercial investments, including in third-world oil companies, to give free or discounted heating oil and other services to poor families across America.

PdVSA subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, has been working with Citizens Energy since at least 2005 to bring cheap fuels to needy families in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which decreased the U.S. oil supply. CEC says that in the last nine years Citgo has provided $500 million in heating assistance to 2 million families in 16 states.

Kennedy, a former House Democrat and a rabid environmental activist, has defended his decision to get Venezuelan oil from critics in the past.

“Some people say it’s wrong to take it,” Kennedy said in a 2009 campaign while considering to run a vacant Massachusetts senate seat.

“Given the fact that the vast majority of the oil from any one single place in this part of the country comes from Venezuela, then everyone who has a problem with us taking oil from Venezuela should hold I think themselves to the same standard, and they should be walking to work and not just be using oil products,” Kennedy said in the ad.

Kennedy’s statements came in spite of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s numerous human rights abuses and anti-American rants. A 2006 State Department report, for example, found data suggesting Chavez’s men killed 6,000 people in five years — that came out just one year after CEC partnered with Citgo.

“Reports of beatings and other humiliating treatment of suspects during arrests were common and involved various law enforcement agencies,” reads another State Department report from 2008.

Still, Kennedy came out in defense of using oil provided by Chavez.

“Every year, we hear from families who struggle each and every day to put food on the table and heat their homes,” Kennedy said in a 2011 statement. “We are deeply grateful to Citgo and the people of Venezuela for their generosity to those who need help keeping their families warm.”

“Every year, we ask major oil companies and oil-producing nations to help our senior citizens and the poor make it through winter, and only one company, Citgo, and one country, Venezuela, has responded to our appeals,” Kennedy added.

Now, Kennedy may not be so quick to defend Citgo’s ties to PdVSA. While no charges have been made public in the oil company’s corruption probes, sources close to the matter that federal agents met earlier this month to “coordinate actions and share evidence and witnesses in the various PdVSA-related probes,” according to The WSJ.

Under Chavez, and now under President Rafael Ramírez, PdVSA went from being an oil company to an arm of the government. It’s revenues were used for welfare programs and funding political campaigns. Company aircraft were used to fly government officials all over the world.

The massive spending spree, however, starved the company of revenues needed to maintain infrastructure and expand production. Hence the bribing of foreign investors to gain access to Venezuela’s struggling economy.

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This article initially incorrectly reported that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., instead of Joseph Kennedy, was linked to the Venezuelan oil company.

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