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.
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.