Key US law enforcement aide faces investigation for extorting Venezuelan officials


Prosecutors in Spain allege that Martin Rodil, the consultant and a prominent expert on Venezuelan corruption, led a group that targeted wealthy Venezuelans suspected of corruption. By Spencer Woodman and Brenda Medina

A consultant to United States law enforcement efforts to pursue corrupt Venezuelan government officials and drug traffickers is now himself being investigated in Spain for allegedly extorting some of the same wealthy Venezuelans targeted in US probes.

Prosecutors in Spain allege that Martin Rodil, the consultant and a prominent expert on Venezuelan corruption, led a group that targeted wealthy Venezuelans suspected of corruption. Members of this group, including three Spanish police officers, are now under investigation for alleged influence-peddling, corruption and money laundering. In court documents, Spanish prosecutors say the former officials, who are prominent figures in Venezuela’s massive public corruption scandal, paid Rodil and his associates in the apparent belief that it would help them avoid criminal charges.

Rodil has not been charged. He did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

Allies of Rodil say that the former Venezuelan officials accusing him are attempting to discredit the U.S. investigations into their own alleged malfeasance by launching a campaign against a key aide to US authorities. They say prosecutors in Spain — a country that some experts call a safe haven for corrupt Venezuelans — are misguidedly pursuing an agenda based on the misinformation campaign of these oligarchs.

Roger Noriega, a former US Assistant Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, who more recently has worked with Rodil’s consulting business, called Rodil an effective anti-corruption crusader and said that the payments to him “were made in the context of when Martin was cooperating in carefully monitored activities” overseen by US authorities. The Spanish investigation stems from “a story being spun by criminals with their legal counsel,” Noriega said.

With a wide-ranging consulting practice, Rodil has worked with the US Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the nation’s top prosecutors’ offices.

Rodil has maintained two professional specialties that complement each other: He provides private consulting services to wealthy Venezuelans seeking to relocate to the United States, partially through connecting them with officials involved in his other line of business – helping the US government to pursue corruption and drug cases. These Venezuelans could in essence trade their knowledge of crimes for residency in the US.

In extensive court records filed in the 29th investigative court of Madrid, Spanish prosecutors allege that Rodil tried to extort at least three former Venezuelan officials. In investigative reports and a proposed arrest warrant filed with the court in October, the prosecutors assert that Rodil’s key point of leverage was the perception that with his extensive connections to U.S. and Spanish law enforcement, he could help mitigate their legal troubles.  The investigative documents filed in Spanish court that ICIJ reviewed include alleged examples of Rodil strongly urging Venezuelans to buy his consulting services, but provide little evidence that he made direct threats or deployed coercion. In Spanish criminal cases, prosecutors can make detailed allegations before any charges are filed.

The sums at issue in Spain’s investigation of Rodil pale in comparison to the billions of dollars that the former Venezuelan officials, including Nervis Villalobos, formerly one of Venezuela’s top energy officials, are alleged to have collectively swindled from Venezuelan public coffers. Some of the prominent defendants have been awaiting trial in Spain for years.

The case of Rodil highlights the difficulties of pursuing international corruption cases and the pitfalls of prosecutors conducting work with the motley collection of informants and consultants who are often key to making such cases work. These collaborators often come with complex dealings in risky businesses that can raise allegations of conflicts of interest.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request to comment for this story.


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