U.S. Markets open in 57 mins

Venezuela PDVSA says it is object of smear campaign after U.S. arrests

The PDVSA logo is seen at a gas station in Caracas, December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Marco Bello

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA on Wednesday said it was the target of a smear campaign by opponents who are trying to link it to corruption, and said its hiring processes followed the law.

Days earlier, U.S. authorities said they had traced over $1 billion to a conspiracy involving a Venezuelan magnate and the company.

"Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) denounces an international discredit campaign made through certain media to link alleged wrongful acts committed by Venezuelan citizens and businesses to the national oil company," PDVSA said in a statement, without directly referring to the case.

"PDVSA confirms that all its processes comply with the laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and is continuously working on its policies, procedures and monitoring processes to ensure the highest level of transparency," it said, adding all allegations are investigated and submitted to authorities.

According to an indictment made public on Monday, U.S. authorities accused Venezuelan businessmen Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera of conspiring to pay bribes to officials to secure contracts from PDVSA.

Both men were arrested on Dec. 16 and have been held without bail.

The indictment said five PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] officials, whom it did not name, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes made principally in the form of wire transfers but also through mortgage payments, airlines tickets and, in one case, whiskey.

According to a court order in the case, from 2009 to 2014, more than $1 billion was traced to the conspiracy, $750 million of which was traced to Rincon, who lives in Texas.

The indictment charges that Rincon, 55, and Shiera, 52, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspired to launder money.

Rincon is president of Texas-based Tradequip Services & Marine. Shiera is the owner of Vertix Instrumentos, a Venezuelan supplier to the oil sector.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Editing by David Gregorio)