20 March 2013

Reputation management David Osio style

From left: David Osio, Andres Coles, and
Congressman David Rivera.
London - Yesterday, out of the blue, I got a call from someone I respect, and whose professional integrity I have no reason to doubt. He was asked about me (whether I was a pen for hire), by a third party (Italo Pizzolante), who, it would appear, acts as a spin doctor for David Osio. The reason? My writings about how Al Cardenas and FTI Consulting have struck gold with Venezuelan criminals and businessmen of extremely dubious credentials. It continues to fascinate me, how some people manage to keep defying the rule of law and/or outright violating it, and be generally referred to as "do-gooders, respectable, and successful" in circles that by education, sophistication, and access to information should really know better.

Case in point: David Osio. This gentleman was recently given some sort of recognition for his "distinguished contribution", or that's what Congressman David Rivera press release said anyway:
Washington, DC- Today Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) and several congressional colleagues will welcome more than two dozen Venezuelan-American leaders to the United States Congress in Washington D.C. for a ceremony in recognition of their distinguished contributions. 
“April 19, 2012 marks the 202nd anniversary of the beginning of Venezuela’s movement toward independence from Spain.  This date offers a fitting opportunity to highlight the great contributions that Hispanics of Venezuelan descent have made to the United States and the diverse fabric of American society.  We are proud to be honoring more than two dozen Venezuelan-American leaders who are at the top of their field in areas including medicine, business, arts and culture, journalism and activism for democracy, in recognition of their outstanding and distinguished works,” Congressman Rivera said. 
The awards ceremony will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday in the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Room, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
From left: Rivera, Osio and Ros-Lehtinen.
Among the "several congressional colleagues" doing the "recognition" were Connie Mack and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, perhaps the two more hawkish -vis-a-vis the Chavez regime- Republican politicians in America. So there they were, up in The Hill, happily, laughing, all cuddly and posing for pictures with David Osio. Did their staff did any due diligence on the list of "Venezuelan-American leaders" that were to be honoured? What "distinguished contributions" has David Osio specifically done?

Before getting the call yesterday, I sent an email to David Osio directly, for I have been reading up about his financial activities, and have some questions to ask, mainly about the sort of anti money laundering compliance he's put in place. For the record, he did reply, acknowledging receipt of my email and CCing a couple of his employees meant to deal with my concerns (still waiting).

In any case, Google returns some really interesting stuff about Osio's operations. His group, called DAVOS but totally unrelated to its homonymous Swiss city, seems to be a provider of financial services. It has offices in various jurisdictions, it claims to provide tax efficient solutions to its presumed wealthy target clientele, claims to do so transparently, and it also claims to have $2.8 billion under management. That's a substantial amount, so I thought relevant to ask what guarantees were in place in case, erm, their promised 3% return on CDs goes the Allen Stanford, or Francisco Illarramendi, way.

Despite transparency claims, there's hardly a name in DAVOS's website, apart from that of founder / owner (DAVid OSio). One has to look in DAVOS's leaflet to find management names: Gustavo Rivas, Mauro Nannini, Rafael Tinoco and Andres Coles. No bios. Anywhere.

There's nothing wrong in not posting bankers details online, after what's happened in the last few years. But the questions remain: are these people authorised to do what they do? If so, by which authorities, from what jurisdiction? What financial entity from the jurisdictions where they operate ensures, for instance, that DAVOS complies with due diligence, know your client and, above all, checks on politically exposed persons? Is the legitimacy of origin of every last dollar, from the $2.8 billion pot DAVOS claims to manage, been checked? Their leaflet about AML seems to have been lifted from various other sources (without attribution).

A publication of DAVOS, aptly named Davos Observer, claims that the group got something called "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012." Go ahead and google it. Try and find a similar, grand sounding award, in any year, to another company, anywhere else. The award was allegedly given by "The New Europe Industry Awards". Google again. I found a puff piece about DAVOS in a magazine called The New Europe. It's meant to be published by a company called Chase Publishing in the UK. I traced an email and sent a message to "The New Europe" publishers:
To whom it may concern,
Your publication "The New Europe" is cited in relation to the "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012" to Davos Financial Group.
See: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/davos-financial-group-received-international-181600752.html
The New Europe website published an interview with Davos Financial Group execs, entitled "Davos Financial: The personal touch" on 29 May 2012.
Since news about the award seem to be, exclusively, press releases related to Davos Financial Group, I would like to ask if you could comment on the following:
1) What kind of an award is that?
2) Since when are those recognitions being awarded?
3) On what basis / criteria is the prize awarded?
4) Who are the judging authorities / personalities that take award decisions?
5) Are you able to provide an electronic copy of The New Europe publication (Dec. 2012) in which the news about "Best Offshore Corporate Services Provider - Switzerland 2012" were announced?
6) Since your website (theneweurope.co.uk) seems defunct, could you comment on whether your publication is made available to readers exclusively in hard copy?
My intention is to establish the existence of that award and the veracity of news related to it.
I haven't heard from "The New Europe". Note that "news" about the "award" reprinted in Yahoo Finance do not explicitly clarify that Yahoo Finance is not responsible for its contents, as Reuters does.

But oddities don't stop there, for there's also that other press release where DAVOS claims to have sponsored an artist called Peter Aerschmann. I called Peter, who told me that DAVOS sponsored the space where he was exhibiting, but he "didn't get any money for it." I also found in a Swiss registry that David Osio's powers over D. Société financière (Suisse) SA have been revoked ("Les pouvoirs de Osio David J.sont radiés.") Société financière is still named as a bank with which DAVOS works.

But coming back to yesterday's call, I have seen that, in the past, Osio has employed Derwick-like tactics to silence his critics. Interestingly, Pizzolante Comunicaciones (PR firm acting on behalf of Osio) tried to get to me through that contact referred to before, and law firm Lydecker Diaz LLC (responsible for getting venepiramides.blogspot.com, wikianticorrupcion.org, expedientepublico.org y vlinea.com to remove info about Osio) has been visiting this blog recently. As I said yesterday to my contact, if there's nothing untoward in DAVOS's operations the best way of dealing with my, or anyone else's, doubts / criticisms is to be open and address concerns promptly and honestly. Using intermediaries, third parties, lawyers and spin doctors is never a good strategy, and sending legal threats to journalists and bloggers generally motivates people to dig and write more.


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