By John Suayan | Feb 26, 2018

HOUSTON – A defunct energy company asserts it went out of business because it refused to take a bribe from executives with a South American energy company and has pursued legal action in federal court.

In a lawsuit filed on Feb. 23, Houston-based Harvest Natural Resources, Inc. and subsidiary HNR Energia B.V. accuse former Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. president and former Venezuelan minister of energy Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno and several other people and entities of working “to force American companies to pay-to-play in Venezuela’s oil and gas industry in one of the largest bribery and money-laundering schemes in history.”

Court documents explain that Harvest and its business partners turned down four separate $10 million bribe demands. Venezuela’s Ministerio del Poder Popular de Petroleo y Mineria allegedly retaliated by withholding final approval for Harvest to sell its Venezuelan energy assets – totaling about $1.1 billion – to two different buyers in 2013 and 2014.

“As a result, Harvest was forced to sell the same assets for approximately $255 million, at a loss of $470 million, and unexpectedly to cease doing business and wind up its affairs,” the original petition states.

Insisting they were “never complicit in that conduct,” the plaintiffs claim the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Sherman Act; the Robinson-Patman Act, and the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act.

Consequently, Harvest seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Lee Kaplan of the law firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, L.L.P. in Houston serves as the complainants’ lead counsel.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:18-CV-0483

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