Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA on Monday said it was the target of a smear campaign after the U.S. Justice Department said three of the firm’s former employees had pleaded guilty to charges over a scheme to corruptly secure energy contracts.  The former officials at Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. ( pleaded guilty under seal in December to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Their pleas were unsealed by a federal judge in Houston last week. [L2N16V0Z4]  The three are Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 38, Christian Javier Maldonado Barillas, 39, and Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz, 53.  In a statement late on Monday night, PDVSA said the men “are not PDVSA workers, they had temporary, low-level jobs in the organizational structure of PDVSA Services Inc and were removed before these accusations became public.” (

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