20.12.15

Roberto Rincon arrested in Houston for money laundering

The news in the Venezuelan Twitter sphere last night was the arrest in Houston (unconfirmed by official sources as of this writing) of Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera.

Journalist Casto Ocando said on Twitter that Rincon had been arrested for money laundering in association with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), adding that members of a "Homeland Security's elite unit of financial of crimes had been investigating Rincon for years" prior to his arrest.

Sources consulted confirmed, extra officially, that Rincon and Shiera had indeed been arrested.

Journalist Cesar Batiz did a thorough profile on Rincon and his business empire.

Further leaks to this site reveal an interesting detail: right after Hugo Carvajal was arrested in Aruba by the DEA, Rincon (an long time partner of Carvajal) started traveling on a diplomatic passport, no 0841947189, as shown in picture (below). Furthermore, when Dutch authorities in Aruba decided to release Carvajal, (since 2008 in OFAC kingpins list for "materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a narco-terrorist organization") on some technicality (more on pressure from chavista regime) Rincon's plane (N9GY) took Carvajal back to Venezuela.


And who do we see, as a regular passenger since Feb 2010 of Rincon's N9GY jet? None other than Abraham Shiera, also arrested with Rincon. For a backgrounder on both Rincon and Shiera (and other respected members of the chavista Boliburgeoisie) and their virtual spin doctor of choice, Setty has a thorough investigation here

Venezuelan immigration records show Rincon and Shiera using a fleet of N-plate jets for their travels: N999GY, N91GY, N9GY, N723AA, N200CV, N604RR, N112WJ, N840TC, N713SA, N900DL, N727AT, N556HJ, and N245MS. Lots of trip between Maracaibo and Bogota, Aruba, Panama, Ft Lauderdale, and Miami.

8.12.15

#speechless

Still trying to come to terms with the enormity of what happened in Venezuela a couple days ago. Still difficult to believe that a bunch of thugs, otherwise knows as chavismo, with so many skeletons in their closets, with so much to lose, with their immediate freedom in great peril, sort of gave up, conceding an election. An election, in Venezuela, just like that.

Now I'm on the record, railing against the fairness and transparency of what's come to be known as the "world's best electoral system." I am perhaps the Venezuelan blogger that has written more on the topic. My investigation into the way in which Smartmatic came to be the provider of choice for electoral processes in Venezuela started sometime in 2004, and is still ongoing. The website I created and used to run, vcrisis.com, published in 2006 perhaps the first ever audit, in English, of Venezuela's electoral roll. In 2007, Hugo Chavez thought he would become Emperor of Venezuela. He proposed such far ranging amendments to the constitution, that even his own followers turned their backs and didn't back it up. We are still waiting for the final results of that vote, the only one Chavez ever lost. In August 2004, there was a recall referendum on Chavez's stay in power. After years of negotiations between opposition parties' representatives, government and international mediators, Venezuelan electoral authorities announced, in the early hours of the morning as it has become norm, that Chavez had won by an almost 20% margin. No one checked that results announced were correct. No one could. As a matter of historical fact, no observer, international or otherwise, was allowed to witness the final tally. Opposition representatives did not have a clue of what was happening within the bowels of the Ministry of Elections. Carter Center and OAS representatives fucked up, big time, in safeguarding ballot boxes in the places where they were stationed, and in further guaranteeing that the joke of an audit conducted three days after was done properly. In 2005, an opposition technician showed during an audit in front of international observers that the secrecy of the vote was compromised. Another audit, of the electoral roll organized by the electoral body, ended up concluding that the roll simply wasn't fit for purpose.

All of that hung in my mind, like a hanged body. Like something you just can't ignore when trying to inform a decision on whether the electoral, under such circumstances, was ever to become a viable solution to get rid of chavismo's power stranglehold. I became an advocate, and wrote countless words about how the opposition, armed with nothing but current legislation, should demand conditions, as dictated by law. I railed against the opposition, endlessly, for accepting the unilateral, and illegal, imposition of unfair electoral conditions. Time and time again I argued what I thought was only fair, and self evident.

So count me among those who were skeptical about elections in Venezuela, among those who denigrated an opposition leadership that never stood up for our electoral rights. But then Sunday happened (6D). With all of the above, against a State that bracenly used all power available to it, legal and otherwise, Venezuelans voted massively against chavismo, against the hunger, violence, misery and, above all, against the hardship that chavismo has unleashed like a curse on Venezuela. I will be hated for this, but I will call it a punishment vote (voto castigo). Venezuelans, chavistas or not, voted against chavismo. The monumental clusterfuck that Venezuela has become is chavismo's, and chavismo's only, legacy. But within it, in its defined political context, I admit I was never expecting such a quick, zanahoria, give up. People with so much at stake aren't supposed to give up without a proper fight. In all honesty I never thought this would happen, and oh have I been proved wrong!

As some people heard my rants against electoral authorities, I heard an endless stream of arguments against the opposition's lack of a program, a manifesto, a plan: "you can't beat chavismo without a plan... you have to win hearts and minds... warm up to chavistas so they vote opposition..." and on, and on. Well, it wasn't the opposition. It was all chavismo, and THEIR plan. It was THEIR utter destruction of every fabric of Venezuelan society which pushed the majority to the opposition's arms.

Still speechless, but tremendously happy and slightly hopeful, I am eager to keep being lectured, and proved wrong, for that'll mean further steps towards a democratic, peaceful and progressive Venezuela for all. There are gargantuan problems ahead: corruption being, in my opinion, the most important. As I write this, there's already talk about Henry Ramos Allup becoming President of the new Congress. I don't think a man like him should even be considered as worthy of that kind of responsibility, and that's what makes me a lifetime-member of the opposition. But for now, I can only be grateful towards my compatriots.

15.9.15

Chavista propaganda brings disrepute to Foreign Policy

Got late to the party, must admit. The discussion at hand is -yet another- exhibit of yellow journalism, this time by the otherwise reputed Foreign Policy magazine.

In short, a propagandist of the Maduro regime was caught, as we say, "cagando y sin papel". Before anyone thinks that my use of the term propagandist is inaccurate, or unfair, here we have Mr Rob Lovato, described as a "writer and scholar", who does not find relevant to disclose to publications that presumably commission jobs to him, to reveal professional relations that bring unavoidable conflicts of interests.

So let's say that the editors of Foreign Policy got a "profile" of Leopoldo Lopez (Vzlan opposition leader recently condemned to nearly 14 years imprisonment) from Mr Lovato. Given that the piece was meant to have been "reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, with support from the Puffin Foundation", one must presume that necessary editorial consideration was given to the facts presented by all editors involved.

After publication, information about Mr Lovato's professional relations with TELESUR surfaced. To those who may have missed it, TELESUR is a Pan-American, Venezuela-funded, chavista "news" channel, as trustworthy and objective as Putin's Russia Today. It remains to be seen whether Lovato disclosed to Foreign Policy and The Nation that he had been previously contracted by TELESUR to do some programs, and later produced the "profile" on Lopez.

According to Lopez's lawyers and Pedro Burelli (mentioned throughout Lovato's piece) the article contains several inaccuracies, which Foreign Policy seems to be aggregating as "clarifications and corrections" at the end of the article.

But now we know that Lovato has been taking cues from Venezuela Information Office propagandists in Hugo Chavez's employ since, at least, September 2007, when Mr Lovato was a writer for New America Media and The Nation, and was being asked by chavistas to, basically, "publish oped": read regurgitate propaganda.


The two images above come from FARA reports filed by the now-extinct Venezuela Information Office, a Venezuelan government-financed and Venezuelan embassy-managed "information office" run from Washington DC. Did Lovato ever disclose this to The Nation and Foreign Policy?

Chavistas are having a ball with U.S. media these days. Whether is Bloomberg, Forbes or Foreign Policy, it seems to be getting easier for sly operators to get past clueless editors that can't be bothered to apply a minimum of editorial rigour to demonstrably unsubstantiated BS.

1.9.15

CAJUBI fraud: Marcelo Barone arrested in London

Marcelo Barone and Elisabel Vazquez (photo from ABC Color, Paraguay)
Readers might remember an investigation / collaboration I did in 2012 with Mabel Renhfeldt from Paraguay about a Venezuelan couple, Marcelo Barone and Elisabel Vazquez, who had defrauded some $36 million from a workers' fund in CAJUBI, the Brazilian-Paraguayan entity in charge of running Itaipu's dam.

As it turns, Barone, who was running from Paraguayan justice and is listed as wanted by INTERPOL along wife / partner in crime Vazquez, was finally arrested in London on 23 August according to Paraguayan media. A hearing in London today will determine whether Barone is released on bail, or whether he will remain in jail until January 2016 as per Paraguay's extradition request process.

Details of the whereabouts of Vazquez remain sketchy. Some reports claim Vazquez is in a clinic somewhere in London, while others suggest she was also arrested.

It is a matter of great pride to have collaborated in this investigation, and to see that authorities in some parts of the world are actually doing something against corruption.

21.8.15

Steal over a billion > Bloomberg'll call it 'family feud'

The message from the Bloomberg reporter read:
"Hi, I'm a reporter doing something on Derwick. Can I give you a call to ask a couple of questions?"
By this time, it's evident emails and calls are standard procedure of journalists / researchers reporting Venezuela, just to cover their backs and say "yeah, we called the guy, he gave us the usual about Mr Betancourt and his Derwick co..."

While I admit it is utterly unprofessional to be posting emails sent privately without the other party's consent, I just can't honor convention with reporters that epitomise unprofessionalism. After receiving the message above I called the reporter, and answered the "couple of questions" and more. But this is precisely the problem of editorial desks and journalists around the world: to think that a meaningful story can be produced by asking "a couple of questions". Invariably, initial niceties are followed by "I don't know anything about Venezuela..." or "this story is well beyond my area of expertise..."

When one asks clueless reporters what would happen in their countries should a Derwick-like scandal take place, all of them, without failure, say "yeah, I guess you're right, it would be a scandal, heads would roll..."

So why the difference? Why is it that reporting corruption-related issues in America and Europe gain lots of traction, catapult to stardom whoever brings them to light, official probes ensue, but doing same about under-developed countries gets spun into 'family feuds'?

Venezuelans can only feel envy at what's happening in Brazil, with Petrobras, Odebrecht, etc. That however, as dramatic as it may seem, is children's play next to what goes on in our country. Corruption in PDVSA and Venezuela is orders of magnitude larger that whatever's been done in Brazil, and yet, Venezuela's most notorious gang of corrupt businessmen are presented as entrepreneurial mavericks. This is beyond sickening, and not the first time that Bloomberg misrepresents Venezuelan thugs.

Once upon a time, Forbes was made to retract an attempt at whitewashing Derwick, but they seem to have a soft spot for Bolichoros. Same goes with Bloomberg and its reporting of Derwick. Money laundering of the multimillion dollar kind is called "growth plan". Corruption, bribes, no-bid contracting and misappropriation of public funds through massive overcharges by Derwick execs is called "a family divided over his business dealings with Chavez’s government." Probes by U.S. Federal agencies, Manhattan's DA, and Spain's anti money laundering authorities, and investigative reports exposing lack of credentials get summarised as "certain relatives who weren’t happy". Doublespeak that would make Goebbels, or chavismo, proud.

Bloomberg's hacks are yet to awake to the realities of Venezuelan corruption. Producing copy, without asking any proper questions, seem to be their sole remit. And that would be fine, if it weren't a business-oriented publication. As it is, failing to establish clear and evident links between shell companies and proxies of thugs being investigated in at least two jurisdictions is inexcusable, hard to take it as mere unprofessionalism. Failing to mention forays into business areas unrelated to Derwick's alleged expertise is equally concerning, for it is now common knowledge that Derwick has a hand in Petrodelta -through Francisco D'Agostino- and in Petrozamora -through Orlando Alvarado, in association with PDVSA and Russian interests (Gazprom). Why is this not mentioned?

When did Derwick become an oil-focused company and what credentials, aside the stolen millions that allowed for such, have their execs? What track record -in oil- do they bring to the table? Why is Bloomberg regurgitating Derwick's BS instead of asking questions pertinent to shareholders and interested parties?

19.6.15

Pacific Rubiales wakes up to O'Hara / Derwick Associates money laundering scam

O'Hara Administration Co., S.A. ("O'Hara") calls upon its fellow minority shareholders of Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. ("Pacific Rubiales") to VOTE AGAINST the special resolution (the "Arrangement Resolution") to approve an arrangement whereby ALFA S.A.B. de C.V. ("ALFA") and Harbour Energy Ltd. ("Harbour") are proposing to acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares ("Common Shares") of Pacific Rubiales for C$6.50 per share (the "Proposed Arrangement"). O'Hara believes that the Proposed Arrangement undervalues the Common Shares, is opportunistic given current market volatility, inappropriately incentivizes management at the expense of the minority shareholders and is not in the best interests of the minority shareholders.
You got to give it to these thugs. Boldness isn't something they lack. For here we have, a "group of investors", with no verifiable track record in oil & gas, anywhere on earth, represented by none other than Orlando Alvarado (Derwick Associates CFO), that mere days before Pacific was to announce ALFA's offer just happened to take an interest in Pacific, and in quick succession acquired nearly 20% of its shares. Opportunistic? Nooooo, just take Alvarado's word for it.

Pacific was caught napping, no doubt. It remains to be seen who leaked what, or how did Derwick find out about ALFA's impending announcement. What is unobjectionable is that once it did, Derwick reacted very quickly AND did the utmost to maintain its connection to O'Hara hidden. That is, of course, until I got information from Barbados registrar of companies about IPC Investments, one of the vehicles used by O'Hara and controlled by Alejandro Betancourt, Derwick's CEO. Then another shell controlled by Betancourt popped up in Pacific's shares purchase: Agency Partners, a vehicle used by Betancourt to buy a flat in Miami's Jade Ocean. It was then reported that Volbor Trading, O'Hara Administration, and Telmaven Overseas were three other shells controlled by Betancourt through Alvarado.

Pacific seems to have realised the dangers of allowing itself to be used by Betancourt & co for what amounts to a naked money laundering attempt. It announced some counter actions yesterday:
Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (TSX: PRE) (BVC: PREC) today announced that, after receiving approval from the Independent Committee of the Board of Directors, the Company is filing an application (the "Application") before the Supreme Court of British Columbia (the "Court") in connection with the proposed arrangement involving the Company, ALFA, S.A.B. de C.V. ("ALFA"), Harbour Energy, L.P., Harbour Energy Ltd. ("Harbour Energy") and 1035815 B.C. Ltd. (the "Purchaser"), pursuant to which the Purchaser would acquire all of the outstanding common shares of the Company ("Common Shares") not already owned by ALFA or held by the Company in treasury for cash consideration of C$6.50 per share (the "Arrangement"). The Application is being filed in response to significant concerns raised by Pacific Rubiales shareholders about how members of a group of Shareholders acting jointly and in concert led by O'Hara Administration Co., S.A. ("O'Hara") and Alejandro Betancourt (collectively, the "O'Hara Group") acquired their Common Shares.
In its release, Pacific asks a number of pertinent questions:
  1. Who is O'Hara?
  2. What is their investment track record in oil and gas?
  3. What is their history of corporate governance?
  4. How long have they owned their Common Shares?
  5. What is the O'Hara Group's relationship with Derwick Associates?
  6. Why is their circular lacking disclosure on these material issues? What are they trying to hide?
I feel like I can answer that.
  1. O'Hara is but a vehicle chosen by Alejandro Betancourt and his partners to "diversify", given the irremovable corruption stench that the Derwick brand has.
  2. None. As in non existent. Beyond attempts to flog oil and gas, or concessions in Venezuela, via some corrupt deal with PDVSA, nothing to write home about. Anywhere.
  3. Please refer to the recently leaked 14,000 files related to Derwick Associates dealings with Venezuela and ProEnergy Services, to learn about its "corporate governance".
  4. Indeed, how long, before Pacific made public its negotiation with ALFA? One month?
  5. The O'Hara Group has tried, repeatedly if news reports are to be used as benchmark, to obscure its relation with Derwick Associates. Bloomberg, for instance, first reported that O'Hara's main man, Orlando Alvarado, was "a Caracas-based financial consultant", without mentioning a) that Alvarado was Derwick Associates CFO; b) that IPC Investments was controlled by Betancourt (Derwick's CEO); c) that he represented "private-sector businessmen with no ties to the government" when Derwick's relations with high chavista officials, and bribe payments are a matter of huge interest and official probes in at least two countries. Alvarado hails from ABN Amro. When he left, he founded with a group of colleagues something called White Bridge Capital, where yet another employee of Derwick (Hans Hertell), works. Please note that Derwick Oil and Gas and Betancourt's IPC Investments share Trident Corporate Services as companies' Secretary, as per Barbados register records. But then Alvarado, who may be contacted at oalvardo@derwick.com, has been as recently as April 2015 discussing with Betancourt, Pedro Trebbau (Derwick's no 2), and American lawyers legal matters pertaining to pending lawsuits, issues that a person unrelated to Derwick would not be privy of.
  6. Why indeed? Could it be because they don't want Pacific and its shareholders to realise that this is nothing but an attempt to launder hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from Venezuela?
I sent an email to Alvarado, to ask questions about Derwick's true intentions with Pacific, its associations with Argentinean thugs,  and so on. Let's hope he replies...

4.6.15

Robert Hanson shows how to vanish Venezuela's largest newspaper conglomerate from books

Here's the background. In short, a London socialite called Robert Hanson (pictured), son of Margaret Thatcher's "favourite tycoon", purportedly "bought" in late 2013 Cadena Capriles, Venezuela's largest newspaper conglomerate.

The operation was, of course, a sham intended to hide Cadena Capriles ultimate controlling party. Through special purpose vehicles created solely to keep chavista names hidden from view, Hanson set up a shell in Curaçao called Latam Media Holding N.V., dispatched to Caracas his associate Patrick Teroerde, who "paid" over 90 million USD, and got hold, along with chavista banker Victor Vargas of Banco Occidental de Descuento, of Cadena Capriles. The Curaçao shell is managed by TMF Curaçao N.V. although Venezuelan reports claimed that London-based Hanson Asset Management (HAM) owned Latam Media Holding.  HAM returns are freely available in Companies House beta website.

There are some interesting bits in Hanson Asset Management accounts made up to 31 March 2014. For instance this:


Could Hanson Holdings Lux SARL have been used to purchase Cadena Capriles, to then be given to somebody else for a profit of £3,611? We'll have to check Luxembourg's records...

But then, there's this other bit:


Net assets amounting to £1,437,409 at 31 March 2014? So if Cadena Capriles is not hidden in Luxembourg (a jurisdiction favoured by media-loving chavistas), where is it?

Hanson Investment Holdings Limited, interestingly incorporated in December 2013, has not filed accounts as yet. Teroerde has got one share in it and Hanson Capital Limited -with a declared capital of £50,000- has another.

What happened then to that asset bought in Venezuela for over 90 million USD? A look into the purchase of Spanish magazine Cambio16 exposed a few dodgy connections between high ranking chavistas, boligarchs, PDVSA, Bell Pottinger and French investment firm Lazard. Both Lazard and Hanson are acquainted with Bell Pottinger, and all three have been engaged in illegal deals in Venezuela recently. While no investigation in a country described as a narcostate will flush out Hanson's partners, UK authorities should perhaps follow the American example and launch proper investigations into massive corruption rackets taking place in London. For one thing is to front for Venezuelan white collar thugs, but for drug dealers? Quite another...

19.5.15

#carae'piñadiosdado


Not everyday the WSJ graces its front page with news about TQNLQNSPM* stock, though surprisingly it did yesterday. Jose De Córdoba and Juan Forero brought it home with an extensive account on how several U.S. Federal Agencies, including the DEA, are basically closing in on Diosdado Cabello (pictured sporting a chic red beret), for turning the country into a narco-state. As one of Venezuela's foremost authorities on corruption, I am glad that a major U.S. news outlet finally exposed what's been vox populi for quite some time now.

Those who haven't been paying attention will find the piece interesting, specially claims from authoritative sources about Cabello's role in the Sun's Cartel (Cartel de los Soles: so named for it is run by Venezuela's top brass, i.e. those who have suns insignia in their epaulettes):
A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most-powerful man. “There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel,” said the Justice Department official, speaking of a group of military officers and top officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade. “He certainly is a main target.”
De Córdoba and Forero cite a "Justice Department Official" who said that Venezuela is run by a "criminal organization". That much we also knew. Some key figures were left out however. No mention to Ramon Rodríguez Chacín, or Antonio José Morales Rodríguez (aka "el catre"), who, according to exiled Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte Aponte, called him to order the release of Pedro Maggino (from 21:18 in video). The archive comes handy:
"... a trusted reader informs us that Majed Khalil is the bagman of General Francisco Rangel Gomez, former president of aluminium and mining giant Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG), current Governor of Bolivar state. Hence his deals with CVG. Majed Khalil is also a partner -and best man- of Lieutenant Antonio José Morales Rodríguez (aka "el catre"), godson and aide-de-camp of Hugo Chavez and one of his most trusted men. Morales is currently director of the office of the Secretary of Venezuela's Presidency. Morales has recently been fingered by former Supreme Court Judge Eladio Aponte Aponte as one of the men who ordered him to free an army drug trafficker (Pedro Maggino) caught with 2 tonnes of cocaine in Venezuela.
So it is not only Leamsy Salazar, Cabello's former bodyguard featured throughout, who's witnessed involvement in drug trafficking at the very highest levels, Chavez's very own is also ear-deep in it, despite Oliver Stone's willingness to take a drug trafficker at face value.



U.S. authorities could most certainly tap, at a moment's notice, on a vast network of Bolivarian thugs that have made the U.S. their playground. I'm thinking Francisco D'Agostino, Victor Vargas, Victor Gill, Roberto Rincón, José Zambrano, Rafael Sarria, Pedro Torres Ciliberto and his son Pedro Torres Picón, David Osío, Andrés Coles, Alejandro Andrade, Danilo Díaz Granados, Luis Oberto and his gang... Mind you there's no shortage of Venezuelans -whose ill gotten wealth came from deals with / sanctioned by Cabello- that could reveal the extent of his links to criminal activity. But then again, perhaps those mentioned, and then some, are part of the 56 Bolichoros whose visas have been withdrawn by the U.S. Government and are now singing in a desperate attempt to keep laundered proceeds.

Sources have told me that numerous federal investigations are taking place in New York, Florida, and Texas, where chavista "businessmen" tend to concentrate. Bolivarian "financiers" took to money laundering with such gusto that once public money started drying they thought "maybe we could lend our services to Diosdado's other businesses..."

It does take a while for Uncle Sam to get going, once it does though there aren't many places to hide. In the meanwhile, Cabello must be feeling a bit like Manuel "cara e' piña" Noriega. The U.S. is not about to send the Marines to Venezuela. Nowadays they count on Cuba's G2, Dilma, Juan Manuel Santos and Tom Shannon, to name a few, to do its bidding. Trouble for Cabello, a true TQNLQNSPM if there ever was one, is that outside his sphere of influence (dysfuntional and drug trafficking Venezuelan army) he's got no friends. He hates the Cubans. He has never been bothered with cultivating international allies. He has no charisma. No popular support. He's probably the most hated politico in Venezuela, and it is unlikely that FARC narcoterrorists are going to risk it for him.

Time will tell, of course. But before we see the end of this some spectacular fireworks are likely to take place.

*Tipo Que No Lo Quiere Ni Su Puta Madre.

1.5.15

Derwick Associates claims another victory against Otto Reich in NY bribery lawsuit

United States District Judge, J. Paul Oetken, dismissed former Western Hemisphere Affairs Secretary, Otto Reich, jurisdictional claims presented in a bribery lawsuit against Derwick Associates filed by the former diplomat in New York. In a stinging decision, Judge Oetken derides some of Reich's arguments about Derwick's executive Pedro Trebbau, stating:
Plaintiffs offer essentially the same set of facts in support of jurisdiction over Trebbau, with one important exception: Trebbau neither owns nor rents any real estate in New York at all. Instead, Plaintiffs contend, his New York residence is the home of his friend and banker, Eduardo Travieso. Plaintiffs argue that “given Defendants’ wealth and stature, it is simply implausible that they could maintain their extravagant lifestyles in Venezuela—a violent, third- world country beset by rampant blackouts, food shortages and gross poverty.” (Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Betancourt’s and Trebbau’s Motions to Dismiss, at 10 [Plaintiffs’ Memorandum].) And yet Plaintiffs would have the Court believe that a man of Trebbau’s estimable “wealth and stature” permanently intends to crash on his friend’s couch. (bold added)
Judge Oetken's decision is a thing of beauty. It demonstrates, for one, that due process, when functioning as intended, is never encumbered with tangential stuff that has no direct bearing on the issue at hand, which is determining jurisdiction on the basis of facts presented in this particular instance.

Having property, bank accounts, mortgages, visiting, and spending money in a place does not amount, in Judge Oetken's view, to being domiciled in that place. Ed Miliband would disagree though. So while Alejandro Betancourt -Derwick's CEO / $PRE.to third largest shareholder- admits to have just 35% of his total net worth in New York -Reich claims Betancourt keeps $68 million in NY banks- he is not domiciled in New York, and therefore New York courts have no jurisdiction over his affairs, as pertaining to bribery claims against Derwick Associates in the context of this lawsuit.

Reich basically failed to demonstrate that Betancourt and Trebbau were domiciled in New York. That's what it came down to. The lawsuit never got to the juicy part: bribery allegations that could have shed light on the manner in which Derwick got over a billion dollars in 12 no-bid contracts from the Venezuelan State.

In the meantime, US Federal Agencies and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office continue probing Derwick and its commercial activities. I have been told that there's a particular interest in exploring connections to Diosdado Cabello, who appears to have become target no 1 for US law enforcement interested in Venezuela.

29.4.15

Derwick CEO Alejandro Betancourt acquires 10.29% of Pacific Rubiales

Background from Reuters.
Update: Bloomberg sort of confirms what I exposed, but lacks the integrity of describing Derwick's CFO (Orlando Alvarado) as Derwick CFO, claiming instead that Alvarado and his "partner" (boss Betancourt) are "private-sector businessmen with no ties to the government and prefer to remain anonymous"...


28.4.15

Escotet takes a page out of Derwick's book

A visit last week by European Central Bank (ECB) readers to the profile I did on Juan Carlos Escotet took me down a rabit hole. First, repeating the Google search done by the ECB folks led me to discover that my http://infodio.com site had been hacked. Basically, someone sitting pretty in Uzbekistan, or who knows in what beyond-reach-of-Western-law-enforcement's-jurisdiction, uploaded a few files onto my server, hosted by Leaseweb in the Netherlands, to redirect all Google.com, .co.uk, .ca, and .com.au searches for related keywords to an online pharmacy selling Viagra, migraine medicine and another 35 or so products. Just to leave evidence, I recorded a short video.

Once I dealt with that, I came to learn that Escotet had taken half a page ad in a Spanish publication, to announce that he was suing El Confidencial, another media outlet (see below).


This is the sort of the stuff that one just can't come up with, one for the #youcantmakethisshitup series.

Escotet seems to have learned nothing from that other Venezuelan concern that likes to go around threatening journalists, bloggers and the free press with lawsuits. And how's that one turning up? Beyond the particular merits argued by the parties, one thing these Venezuelan thugs seem incapable of recording is that if you mess with the press -free press I mean, not the Venezuelan one- you scream for further probing / attention. And that's exactly what Escotet, who managed quite the coup with Abanca's acquisition, will get.

Members of the free press in Spain, not the ones fêted by Escotet to all expenses paid Caribbean trips, may discover that he lied through his teeth during Abanca's bidding process. They may find, for instance, Escotet's very own words about exchange rates (see below):
So Mr Escotet, think's Wall Street bankers are naïve because, erm, they use the same tricks he does to gain business. What a dishonest, two-bit thug. But what to make of his attack spread in Spain? Not long ago, in the context of claims that millions worth of bribes were paid to Diosdado Cabello by Derwick through Escotet's bank, he put out another spread, in Venezuela, saying his banks operated in 15 countries, and complied with regulations in all jurisdictions.  That's crock of course, but notice how he claims now that Abanca, the bank he bought in Spain, has gone, in the space of less than a year, from failed regional bank to announce more earnings than giant BBVA (Spain second largest), "over 2 million customers and operations in 8 countries." Bold the man is, we got to give him that.

Escotet's beaf with El Confidencial is due to what he perceives to be bad PR. El Confidencial recently published that SEPBLAC, Spain's Anti Money Laundering unit, is keenly investigating both him and his banks. If they follow down that rabit hole, they'll find a pandora world of corruption behind what's surely the wealthiest and most powerful group of operators in today's Venezuela. Having a commanding position in Venezuela's financial arena means that he has dealt with all the thugs, big and small, in the public and private sectors. In Venezuela he silences all but the most obstinate voices, of course, and not-yet-on-the-payroll journalists and independent media are promtly dealt with through the courts.

His clients at Derwick are also on the Slimification path: the latest is that they popped in Mexico -again #youcantmakethisshitup- as "investors" in some energy project. It takes some doing to launder all those ill gotten billions, though it would appear that time's running out for the Boliburgeoisie.

16.4.15

Open Letter to Judge J. Paul Oetken re Derwick Associates

Dear Judge Oetken,

Thanks to my fellow blogger Steven Bodzin, I found out about the latest in the lawsuit brought against Derwick Associates that you are currently dealing with.

I have read most of the documents. The issue of strongest contention between the parties seems to be jurisdiction. Daimler vs Bauman is cited throughout, both in support and opposition to motion to dismiss.

While I am certain that strict rules of due process are applied to this lawsuit, I think it would be travesty if you ruled in favour to dismiss. You won't have trouble finding reason against such motion based on evidence provided by the very party desperately pleading for dismissal. And I am talking about public, readily available, evidence.

As an exercise, you could for instance challenge Betancourt's legal counsel to furnish publicly available evidence to back claim that he voted, presumably in Venezuela, "19 times in the two and a half year period" prior to this lawsuit's commencement in 2013.

You could also read claims made to the Wall Street Journal by one member of Derwick Associates' numerous legal team, Adam Kaufmann, former prominent Chief Investigator of New York's DA Office: "We are a transparent company and have nothing to hide."

Ask yourself: why would a "transparent company" with "nothing to hide" spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers, precisely and specifically, to stop information about its activities to become public? Does that strike you as "transparent"?

Furthermore, if we take Derwick's legal counsel's no-jurisdiction argument at face value, why is it so important for them to keep their activities in the USA hidden, if, indeed, they are a Venezuelan concern with no significant interests in the USA? Derwick's associations with US entities, such as ProEnergy Services, did not, in any way, hinder its ability to get public contracts in Venezuela. Quite the contrary. Having hundreds of millions of dollars in different US bank accounts, a considerable portfolio of US properties, US companies and investments, and bona fides from some of the US most reputed banks and law firms allowed Derwick to operate unconstrained from jurisdictional hurdles. In fact, had it not been for what could be termed as the very efficient American services industry, Derwick would have been unable to even acquire property in US soil. For Derwick did not produce letters from their banks in Venezuela, as guarantee for multimillion dollar property purchases. Derwick does not fly internationally in Venezuela-registered planes. Derwick did not execute its contracts by subcontracting Venezuelan, but American companies. As Pedro Trebbau admits, Derwick holds very little capital in Bolivares (Venezuela's official and only currency, subject to official currency controls) in Venezuelan banks.

But then, you must pay special attention to the fact that Derwick initiated legal proceedings against a Venezuelan bank, in New York courts in 2012. This Derwick did voluntarily, without coercion of any sort. No one forced Derwick to start a lawsuit in New York, and by doing so it not only admitted but actively sought the jurisdiction of New York courts to seek redress for a uniquely Venezuelan dispute: i.e. a defamation claim, brought by Derwick against a Venezuelan bank and its execs, for material published in Spanish, in a Venezuelan website, to a Venezuelan audience. Derwick decided to move its case subsequently to Florida, where it failed, spectacularly, at arguing its spurious defamation case successfully. Ultimately, Derwick's claim was dismissed with prejudice by a colleague of yours.

Ask yourself: how come New York court system was a valid venue, from a purely jurisdictional point of view, for Derwick to remedy a defamation case among Venezuelan parties in 2012, but it is not in 2013? I am sure you will agree that Derwick's non-jurisdiction argument is, quite simply, untenable.

Consider also the wider implications of granting a dismissal. As, arguably, Venezuela's foremost anti corruption blogger, I can assure you that there's not a chance of a scandal of this magnitude, that touches so many powerful figures of Venezuela's current government, to be heard in that country totally corrupt court system. Many of the actors involved in this saga are hugely powerful, so powerful in fact, that one of them managed to have Venezuela's Civil Code "reinterpreted" by the Supreme Court, so that a marriage ruling against him -obtained through fraud- was reverted. We are talking about the Chair of Venezuela's Congress, arguably the ruling party's top figure; we are talking about Venezuela's Ambassador to the UN, and former CEO of PDVSA and Minister of Energy; we are talking about owners of Venezuela's largest banks; we are talking about an international criminal organization, for these are not your regular defendants, but folks that, effectively, control Venezuela, for all intents and purposes a failed state.

It may sound impertinent coming from me, but you must put yourself in the proper geopolitical, historical and legal context when ruling time comes. If you are unaware of it, do ask to be briefed on FINCEN's or President Obama's Executive Order about Venezuela. Do find out, if you can, what is currently happening with Derwick Associates in New York's DA's office, the Security and Exchange Commission, Treasury Department, FBI, State Department, Homeland Security and DEA. If you could, check ramifications that touch Derwick, currently being investigated and exposed in Spain's media, with respect to laundering of billions of dollars in Spain and Andorra where actors associated with Derwick are involved. Only today, news broke about one of Derwick's bankers of choice having been singled out as a "priority target" by Spain's Anti Money Laundering Investigation Unit. Another of Derwick's bankers has been named in a Florida lawsuit that the Venezuelan State is bringing for misappropriation of millions of dollars, while a third, father in law of one of the defendants in your case, is actively collaborating with US law enforcement.

Your honour, understand that this is a historical opportunity.

Cordially,
Alek Boyd


8.4.15

London's Met Police hunt for burglars of my flat

London's Metropolitan Police is actively looking for information about three suspects, likely related to break in to my flat and subsequent threats made to my family.

As per news report:
Published: 18 March, 2015 By ALINA POLIANSKAYA |  POLICE are looking to speak to three people in connection with a burglary in Primrose Hill, in which two computers were stolen from a flat.
The men were caught on CCTV inside the building, after being refused entry into the secure block by the porter. They tried buzzing for entry several times, between 8am and 9.45am on November 17 last year, and though they were denied access, they were later caught on camera in the building.
One suspect, who is described as Middle Eastern, aged approximately 40 and of medium build, was wearing a light brown jacket over a white shirt, a blue-grey scarf and grey flat cap. Another is aged around 25, of Mediterranean appearance and of slim build. He wore a shiny, red quilted jacket with white writing on the chest and crown of the hood, which was worn up. He also had on black lycra jogging bottoms The third suspect was a 40 to 50 year old white man, of medium build. He had a goatee beard and wore a grey hooded coat with a grey hat under the hoof and a grey scaf.
Police urge anyone who can identify these men or know where they are, to contact DC Stephanie Barron of Camden CID on 101.

27.3.15

Tambalea el chavismo


Todo evento histórico cuenta con un momento decisivo. Propondré que la carrera política de Hugo Chavez no comenzó con el golpe de estado, sino con aquella entrevista en la cual se dirigió a la nación y pronunció el famoso “por ahora”. Aquel breve discurso capturó la imaginación de una sociedad, y catapultó al golpista al estrellato. A más de dos décadas de aquel momento, Venezuela se encuentra en una vergonzosa situación. No está igual, o mejor, que en 1992, o 1999, está peor, mucho peor, en cuanto renglón o aspecto mesurable se considere. En el 2015 ha ocurrido un evento que pudiera ser el principio del fin del chavismo.



La Orden Ejecutiva del Presidente Barack Obama, congelando cuentas y bienes, y suspendiendo visas a siete esbirros del régimen de Nicolas Maduro por graves violaciones a los derechos humanos y corrupción entre otras cosas, ha sido, en mi opinión, un momento decisivo en la historia política de Venezuela. No lo es por el lenguaje declarando a Venezuela una amenaza contra los EEUU, ya que ello es una formalidad legal requerida para tales decisiones del ejecutivo estadounidense, sino por las repercusiones que dicha orden ha tenido. A tan sólo unos días de la orden del Presidente Obama, el Departamento del Tesoro de los EEUU a través de su oficina de prevención de delitos financieros (FINCEN), hizo pública otra orden, esta vez contra Banca Privada de Andorra (BPA). La orden de FINCEN identifica a un ruso, a un chino, y menciona, sin proveer nombres, a operadores financieros que habrían participado en apropiación indebida y blanqueo de 4.200 millones de dólares de PDVSA.



El anuncio de FINCEN ha causado, a su vez, un terremoto en el sector financiero andorrano y español, ya que el BPA es dueño del Banco de Madrid, otro banco que opera en España. Investigaciones de la Comisión de Prevención de Blanqueo de Capitales e Infracciones Monetarias de España (SEPBLAC), hechas públicas por el diario El Mundo, identifican con nombre y apellido a seis operadores venezolanos mencionados por FINCEN. Los mencionados por El Mundo son: Alcides Rondón, Javier Alvarado, Nervis Villalobos, Carlos Aguilera, Omar Farías, y Rafael Jiménez. Reportajes subsiguientes afirman que estos individuos, en conjunto, recibieron sobornos por unos 140 millones de dólares para la obtención de contratos con instituciones del estado venezolano.



Mientras ese escándalo se ventila en la prensa española, la venezolana no hace mención al respecto. Ello se debe a que el chavismo controla, directa o indirectamente, casi la totalidad de los grandes medios en Venezuela. Lo que está por ventilarse sobre las adquisiciones de dichos medios es de singular gravedad. Ahora, suceda eso o no, algunos de los operadores que llevaron a cabo dichas adquisiciones, junto con el régimen chavista, también son objeto de atención, investigación y seguimiento por parte de autoridades federales estadounidenses. La Orden Ejecutiva identifica a siete funcionarios chavistas, pero no son los únicos. Tras bastidores agentes federales han estado actualizando bases de datos con información sobre las actividades de Victor Vargas, Victor Gill, Danilo Díaz Granados, David Osío, Wilmer Ruperti, Luis Oberto, Roberto Rincón, entre otros dizque empresarios, banqueros, y operadores financieros venezolanos. Algunos de ellos, como Vargas y Gill, están ya cooperando con las autoridades luego de haber perdido visados para viajar a EEUU. Otros, como Alejandro Betancourt, Pedro Trebbau, Francisco Convit, Edgar Romero Lazo y Francisco D'Agostino (Derwick Associates), están siendo investigados por la Fiscalía de Manhattan y otras agencias federales. Y otros, como Díaz Granados, están deshojando la margarita en la República Dominicana.



Uno de los casos más emblemáticos de la política de suspender visas y embargar bienes producto de la corrupción es el de Alejandro Andrade. Involucrado en el escándalo de cuentas secretas en Suiza, en el banco HSBC, donde manejaba entre 2006 y 2007 unos 698 millones de dólares, a Andrade le quitaron la visa por un lado, y lo invitaron a colaborar por el otro. Su presencia en EEUU, donde vive a cuerpo de rey, no deja lugar a dudas en cuanto a su colaboración. Otro que se encuentra en EEUU, estando solicitado por la “justicia” venezolana, es Rafael Isea.



Lo evidente es que el gobierno de Barack Obama o perdió la paciencia con el chavismo, o decidió usar al chavismo como peón en su partida de ajedrez con Cuba. Mientras Estados Unidos y Cuba buscan el restablecimiento de relaciones, Venezuela se ha convertido en una suerte de teatro de operaciones alternativo en el cual tanto Obama como los dictadores cubanos negocian sus posiciones. Maduro repite sin chistar cuanta orden emite La Habana, mientras Washington castiga, donde más duele, al chavismo y, en consecuencia, al castrismo. Por cuanto cualquier bloqueo o impedimento al manejo doloso del dinero público venezolano a nivel internacional es, de hecho, otra vuelta de tuerca a las finanzas que mantienen en pie a ambas cleptocracias.



A todas estas, la oposición oficial venezolana sigue al pie de la letra el libreto chavista. No debe extrañar a nadie el comunicado de la MUD, básicamente rechazando la medida de Obama, por cuanto sus más altos dirigentes, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo y Ramón José Medina, abogaron en contra de sanciones a funcionarios del régimen chavista y a sus operadores financieros en reuniones con el Departamento de Estado. A la boliburguesía que mantiene en su nómina a la dirigencia de la oposición no le convienen las sanciones. A la boliburguesía y a sus empleados no les conviene alterar el status quo chavista. A Leopoldo Martínez, hombre de David Osío en Washington, no le conviene que le quiten la visa y los bienes mal habidos a su jefe. Lo mismo aplica con Ramón José Medina y Victor Vargas, o Henry Ramos Allup y su cuñado y socios en Derwick. A Ramón Guillermo Aveledo no le conviene que la justicia chavista comienze a hurgar su pasado y conexiones al frente del beisbol profesional en Venezuela. Desde luego que cierta oposición venezolana va a pasar a la historia como el más abyecto grupo de apátridas que se haya conocido.



El Presidente Obama busca establecer su legado, y en ese legado Cuba tiene un sitio especial. 16 años de chavismo han convertido a Venezuela en poco más que una colonia cubana. Quizás la sumisión y entrega de nuestra soberanía, en el marco de las relaciones cubano-americanas, traiga inesperadas consecuencias para el chavismo. Lo cierto es que ni siquiera los dictadores cubanos están dispuestos a sacrificar su futuro por el chavismo. Las negociaciones secretas con los EEUU comenzaron en 2009, cuando Hugo Chavez estaba en plenitud de condiciones. Todo a espaldas del mayor benefactor del castrismo desde los tiempos de la Unión Soviética. Personas del entorno más cercano del caudillo, puestos a escoger entre mantener fortunas robadas o proveer información contra el régimen chavista, como Andrade, no dudan en traicionar a quien les permitió hacerse de oro. Lo mismo sucederá con los banqueros, empresarios contratados a dedo y operadores financieros.



La información que Andrade, Vargas, Gill, Isea, y otros provean a EEUU sólo va a incrementar los problemas del régimen de Maduro a nivel internacional. El espectro de acciones y sanciones, directas o indirectas, de las cuales dispone la administración de Obama va a poner a tambalear a los jerarcas de la robolución, por mucho que proteste UNASUR, la CELAC, o la MUD. Uncle Sam no anda tras los mandos medios, e intermediarios. Cabello, Ramirez, el Aissami, Jaua, Flores, Maduro... deberían poner sus barbas a remojar.

21.3.15

Derwick Associates paid bribes to get contracts in Venezuela

[UPDATED*] On Monday this week, one of Spain's newspapers of record (El Mundo), published the details of six Venezuelans being investigated, by Spain's Anti Money Laundering squad (SEPBLAC), for having taken part in money laundering. The news came after the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) singled out a bank in Andorra (BPA), a tax haven tucked in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, for having laundered money for Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan criminals. FINCEN's announcement came in the back of an Executive Order from President Barack Obama, targeting seven high ranking chavistas, for being "involved in or responsible for the erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the significant public corruption by senior government officials in Venezuela."

*Fresh reports from another paper of record indicate that Spanish companies paid $148 million to obtain contracts in Venezuela (in English here).

Two of the six individuals identified, Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, have been named in a lawsuit brought against Derwick for having received millions of dollars worth of bribes. Furthermore, Villalobos is no stranger to corruption accusations in Venezuela. The man has got pedigree.

Villalobos was Venezuela's Viceminister of Energy and CEO of CADAFE, a power company fully owned by the Venezuelan State. In 2007, Chavez ordered all power companies, whether public or private, to merge into a nationwide conglomerate named CORPOELEC. Having being sacked from his CADAFE position by Hugo Chavez, Villalobos was brought back as an aide of sorts by Rafael Ramirez, longtime Energy Minister and CEO of PDVSA. Villalobos has been a regular passenger in flights aboard Derwick airlines.

Alvarado, on his part, was CEO of Electricidad de Caracas, and shared with Ramirez important board positions at newly formed CORPOELEC. Alvarado's son, also called Javier, is a school friend of Pedro Trebbau, one of Derwick's top executives. In fact, when Alvarado Jr was importing an old Porsche he bought from a convicted oil trader, he gave Derwick's office address in Caracas as contact.

FINCEN's report mentioned PDVSA as source of syphoned billions. Derwick Associates got all its 12 contracts either directly from CORPOELEC (through Alvarado and Villalobos), or from its partner PDVSA / Bariven (through Villalobos and Ramirez).




ProEnergy and Derwick have submitted procurement proposals to Venezuelan institutions. They started doing so long before Hugo Chavez declared the state of emergency that ended up awarding 12 no-bid contracts to Derwick, according to documents leaked by ProEnergy staff (see email below). Proposals submitted by ProEnergy and proposals submitted by Derwick were authored by the same individuals: John Stevens (ProEnergy's Vice President of Sales), Joaquin Mavares (ProEnergy's Vice President), and Omar Petit (ProEnergy's Director of Latin America Business Development). In fact, in more than one occasion, according to leaked documents, what Derwick did was simply replace ProEnergy's logo, bank accounts, but, more importantly, costs to include millions of dollars in overcharges: everything else in the proposals remained the same, including authors, according to documents' metadata.

How can this be? How could Derwick's proposals be prepared and authored by ProEnergy staff? Not only the ones for Venezuela, but also a bid in Suriname. Is it not evident that using proposals interchangeably does away with differentiation of bids / companies? ProEnergy paid bribes for the obtention of Termozulia contract, as revealed by Venezuelan journalists. Crucially, Termozulia contract and the bribes paid to obtain it, took place after Derwick and ProEnergy started working together. Given how ProEnergy and Derwick conducted its businesses with CORPOELEC and PDVSA / Bariven, does anyone buy Derwick's line that contracts obtained did not involve payment of bribes to Villalobos, Alvarado and others? 



As per El Mundo and local Venezuelan sources reports, the workflow in obtention of power contracts looks like this:
  • Duro Felguera >> $50 million bribe >> Nervis Villalobos / Javier Alvarado >> Termocentro contract.

  • ProEnergy >> $9.3 million bribe >> Majed Khalil / Omar Petit >> Termozulia contract.
However Derwick wants us to believe that no bribe made part of their workflow. Every single multinational and local company making business of moderate size in Venezuela pays bribes. To be fair, that's just the way it works. If no bribe is paid no contract is granted. But the peculiar thing about Derwick in particular, is their refusal to admit publicly that solely through corruption and nepotism can their success be explained.

Without a track record to speak of, Derwick insists that their company has been victimized by a conspiracy, led by me, to “tarnish its reputation”, while swearing that all their work has been above board. Moreover, Derwick employs Adam Kaufmann, a former Manhattan's DA's Prosecutor, a man that spent over decade working with Robert Morgenthau (left in pic., Kaufmann on the right), who has had the gall -I am more inclined to think the stupidity- of daring to go on record in the Wall Street Journal to claim that Derwick is a “transparent company with nothing to hide.” Contrast, however, what Kaufmann says to the WSJ, to what Derwick's lawyers do in a lawsuit filed against it in New York:

Truly transparent, eh?

Derwick's time's up. Its execs are currently being probed by Manhattan DA's Office, several U.S. Federal Agencies and now the corrupt thugs that contracted them are also investigated by FINCEN and Spain's Anti Money Laundering authorities. This will, almost certainly, lead to further investigations by other Spanish and / or European law enforcement agencies. For instance, El Mundo reports that Villalobos wired money to bank accounts in Miami. Is RBC, as quoted in SEPBLAC's report, the Royal Bank of Canada? Also consider that Villalobos is an intermediary, a bagman for a big chavista beast, otherwise known as Rafael Ramirez. Villalobos didn't just pocket the $50 million, simply because having no official job at the time he couldn't possibly have awarded a contract. That's the remit of someone with true discretionary power, someone high enough in the chavista food chain, a Ramirez, a Cabello...

Derwick also stands accused of paying, at least, $50 million to Diosdado Cabello to obtain contracts (see Cabello mention in another email below). Its partner / alter ego already paid millions to get Termozulia contract. Seeing what Villalobos got from Duro Felguera for same purpose, and Derwick's repeated refusal to open up to scrutiny in lawsuits, its credibility is simply non existent. Francisco D'Agostino, one of Derwick Associates heads, admitted that in Venezuela "you always have to pay" Villalobos-type of "consulting fees" to get contracts.


Notice mention of Majzoub brothers and Ricardo Fernandez, all three proxies of Diosdado Cabello.

Derwick execs favourite argument is that I have been paid to write about them, that my work to expose chavista corruption, which started when some of them were teenagers, is some sort of vendetta, and that silencing me -through break in, theft, stalking, online defamation, spurious legal accusations and threats against my children- will bring to an end their problems with the justice. I guess in their soireés in newly acquired, multimillion dollar houses overlooking the greens of Caracas Country Club, among all those idiotic yesmen, chavistas and pneumatic women, they must think that I have enlisted Barack Obama, Manhattan DA's Office, FINCEN, SEC, FBI, Treasury, IRS, DEA, Homeland Security, the WSJ, El Mundo, and SEPBLAC for my "campaign". Like their chavista patrons like to say: “It's all an Imperial Conspiracy!

It is not a conspiracy to quote them admitting to payment of "consulting fees", or to link to American and Spanish newspapers and investigations; it is not a conspiracy to say that Derwick pays Wikipedia editors to scrub their non existent "reputation"; it is not a conspiracy to mock their advocates idiotic arguments; and to ridicule their lawyer's untenable positions.

As I said a while back, Derwick brought all of this to themselves, and they have only themselves to blame for what's coming their way. I have been told that sancochos in El Furrial are hopelessly boring... 

16.3.15

The world is shrinking for Derwick Associates

One of Spain's newspapers of record, El Mundo, published in its front page today about corrupt officials from Venezuela using the subsidiary of a little bank in Andorra to launder billions of dollars. The news may come as a surprise to some. Readers of this and other blogs of mine will, I hope, share a feeling of vindication with me today, for as extraordinary as El Mundo's decision to name names is, we have known this for a while. In fact, I alerted Spain's money laundering authorities (SEPBLAC) about it in April 2012.

Six names have been mentioned in relation to this money laundering scandal: Alcides Rondon, Carlos Aguilera, Omar Farias, Rafael Jimenez, Javier Alvarado and Nervis Villalobos. Some background is provided, though much information still needs to make it to print.

Derwick Associates has been described by El Mundo as an American company that has benefited from public contracts given by Alvarado and Villalobos, now under investigation. Derwick is not an American co, we know that, but Alvarado and Villalobos are key to this multibillion dollar swindle.

Nervis Villalobos was Viceminister of Energy and CEO of CADAFE just prior to Hugo Chavez decision to merge all power companies in Venezuela in 2007, while Alvarado and PDVSA's CEO Rafael Ramirez shared important board positions at the newly created CORPOELEC. More relevant still, all 12 contracts awarded to Derwick Associates were given by CORPOELEC and / or its subsidiaries / partners (CVG and PDVSA / BARIVEN). Missouri-based ProEnergy Services -under investigation by U.S. Federal Agencies- was then subcontracted to carry out all the work.

Luis Jose Diaz Zuloaga, stepfather of one of Derwick's principals (Francisco Convit), was CEO of Electricidad de Valencia (one of the private cos forcefully absorbed by CORPOELEC). Javier Alvarado, in turn, is the father of a close school chum of Pedro Trebbau (Alvarado Jr on the left, with light blue, Trebbau in the center, dark blue and glasses).

Through Diaz Zuloaga, Villalobos, Alvarado and Ramirez, the Derwick bolichicos managed to get over 1.3 billion USD worth of contracts, according to ProEnergy Services sources familiar with the deals. In addition, Derwick overcharged the Venezuelan State 35%, on average, on each contract, according to leaked documents and ProEnergy Services sources familiar with the contracts.

Spain has been one of Derwick's favourite destinations. Millions of Euros have been spent in lavish weddings, and real estate acquisitions. The Bank of Spain, now at the centre of Andorra's money laundering scandal, ignored AML regulations in purchases involving Derwick. This may be due to the fact that the CEO of the subsidiary of Banca Privada D'Andorra (BPA) operating in Madrid (Banco de Madrid), Mr Jose Perez Fernandez, is a former Director of Compliance of Bank of Spain. The Derwick thugs have become so emboldened that relatives have threatened Spanish journalists,  forcing them to sign gag orders prohibiting any disclosure about their "businesses". Some of the money that Derwick used for property purchases didn't come from BPA / Banco Madrid though, but from Portugal's BANIF, yet another provider of money laundering services for PDVSA's middlemen such as Villalobos.

Spanish authorities have been caught napping at the wheel with regards to arrival of Venezuelan "entrepreneurs" and their "wealth". The case of Juan Carlos Escotet provides the perfect case study. But others come to mind: Miguel Angel Capriles Lopez, or Victor Vargas's acquisition through proxies of Banco Europeo de Finanzas. The reality is that none of these fortunes are legitimate. Cursory checks on origin would, almost certainly, reveal BPA kind of illegal deals.

While this happens in Spain, the Obama administration keeps increasing the pressure on chavistas and their assets in the U.S. Recent sanctions targeting human rights violators are but the tip of the iceberg. Federal Agencies' sources claim that much activity is undergoing behind the scenes, in an attempt to get financial operators and chavista bankers with a great deal of exposure in the U.S. to rat out high officials of Nicolas Maduro's regime.

Derwick Associates, whose execs are under investigation by Manhattan's DA's Office and other Federal Agencies, refused to turn up for depositions in U.S. soil. They are so afraid of being arrested that they were deposed in Aruba, according to sources. They are fighting to keep discovery information secret, despite preposterous claims about being a "transparent company" having "nothing to hide" made by their legal counsel, Adam Kaufmann, to the Wall Street Journal. Others claim that their multimillion dollar properties in New York and Miami are quietly being disposed of, and they are no longer using their N-plate jet to avoid revealing their travels through FOIA request to FAA. If Spanish authorities get serious about preventing money laundering, it is doubtful that they will continue hosting hunting dos in Toledo with Spain's impoverished jet set. That may be the reason why both Trebbau and Betancourt have recently purchased multimillion dollar properties in Caracas Country Club, one of which, allegedly, from Tomas Niembro, Victor Vargas's proxy in Banco Europeo de Finanzas acquisition.