Marcelo Barone: Venezuelan involved in fraud in CAJUBI Paraguay

Marcelo Barone
London 3 June 2012 - A couple of weeks ago, a friend draw my attention to an article in ABC Color, Paraguay's largest newspaper. It was about a Venezuelan, called Marcelo Barone, who had, allegedly, disappeared with millions of dollars worth of retirement funds belonging to workers of Itaipu, the humongous hydroelectric dam in the Paraná river, between Paraguay and Brasil. The news piqued my interest, and so I sent an email to enquire about it, and got in touch with Mabel Rehnfeldt, editor of ABC Digital.

As it turns, Rehnfeldt, who has won international prizes for her investigative journalism, took a keen interest in my communication and given Barone seems to be based in London, asked if I could help in digging some information about him, and his companies, which I obviously did.

Barone (MARCELO ALESSIO SILVIO BARONE SERRA) is Venezuelan, ID 6.558.248, DOB 28/11/1963. He is either married to, or lives with, Elisabel Vasquez Galiño, also Venezuelan, ID 6.240.641, DOB 23/09/1967. Both have dual citizenships apart from the Venezuelan: Barone Italian, and Vasquez Spanish. Barone and Vasquez are partners in a number of businesses / companies.

The whole Paraguayan thing started in 2006, when CAJUBI -Caja Paraguaya de Jubilaciones y Pensiones del Personal de la Itaipu Binacional, or pension and retirement fund of Itaipu workers- gave Barone $4 million for, so called, high return investments.

In 2007, Barone must have managed to convince CAJUBI board of directors that his financial acumen was extraordinary: he got another $32 million. In total, some $36 million were given to Barone. In the most bizarre circumstances, without any attempts at doing due diligence on Barone and his investment companies, the CAJUBI board signed a "Social Pact" that would destine the funds to Barone's companies, without requesting him to sign anything. That is to say, CAJUBI board disposed of $36 million of its workers' fund and does not even have a receipt signed by Barone. More troublesome still, Barone registered in Panama the company that got the funds two days after the funds were approved.

"How extraordinary" I thought. Some dodgy fellow lands in Paraguay, pretending to be Panamanian, arguing that he's got a PhD (from where?) and, without a track record in banking, securities or financial services anywhere says he has a formula that should bring phenomenal returns (??), and CAJUBI executives give him $36 million, just like that, without even asking for a signature in a contract?

So I decided to dig. Barone had/has 9 companies registered in Panama (link 1, link 2), two in Florida (link 1, link 2), and one in the UK (link). He purchased a couple of multi million pound properties in Hyde Park (link) and St James (link), through one company registered in Guernsey (link), and one in the UK (link). That's four jurisdictions right there.

Barone is not registered as a financial service provider / adviser with the Financial Services Authority in the UK, nor with its counterpart in Florida. Two of Barone's companies, Plainc Inc and Plainc Asset Management Inc., have been the object of alerts to investors issued by the Panamanian Superintendence of Stock Markets (Superintendencia del Mercado de Valores), neither having "been issued any kind of license by the Commission, nor ha[ve] been authorized to carry out businesses as a financial intermediary of securities or investments in or from Panama."

Barone also registered investment funds, presumably for the purposes of his dealings with CAJUBI. All the funds (Euroinvest Property, Euroinvest Global Diversified, Euroinvest GBP, Euroinvest Alternative Markets and Assets) were registered in Panama, and all of them are inactive, according to Bloomberg.

Despite the fact that Barone pitched some of his Panamanian companies as the ones to be used for his "investments", funds transferred by CAJUBI were never sent to that jurisdiction, but to the US, Switzerland and the UK, between March 2007 and May 2008, to Resitrust Inc. and Euroinvest Worldwide Inc. accounts in Bank of America, Dresdner Bank and Citibank respectively.

By now, it is more than evident that CAJUBI executives are up to their ears in this fraud to workers' pension funds. As I understood from Rehnfeldt, 80% of the board is formed by political appointees and only 20% are workers representatives. Paraguayans are, quite naturally, incensed by the obscene display of wealth and lifestyle of Barone, let alone by the thugs involved in the racket, and the authorities that are doing nothing to recover pensioners' funds.  Beyond the galloping corruption of CAJUBI and Barone, the latter's operations in various jurisdictions just depicts the ease with which individuals involved in transnational criminal activities can operate with absolute impunity and freedom. For according to sources consulted Barone has also pitched his services here in the UK, where not only he is not registered to carry out such activities but he appears to be a non-dom.

Barone does not pay taxes in Panama, the US, the UK, or Venezuela. In addition, as far as our research goes, he is not properly registered to provide the services he offers in any of the jurisdictions where he operates.

Read alsoMarcelo Barone and Elisabel Vasquez Galiño wanted in Paraguay

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