Derwick Associates requests censorship, I request details

I couldn’t agree more. Photo I took today in Bogotá.

Derwick Associates is a Venezuelan engineering company that has had incredible success in the three years since it was founded, gaining hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to procure generating turbines and other materials and to then build electricity plants. Press reports have raised questions about exactly how Derwick got so big, so fast. My colleague Cesar Batiz at Últimas Noticias wrote 14 months ago that the company had gotten very big contracts despite a lack of experience and the relative youth of its managers. He later included Derwick in a larger article about suppliers of electricity equipment that appeared to be overcharging. Both times, he tried to speak with the company, but wasn’t able to get them to reply. Later, the Devil’s Excrement blog ran a piece summarizing Batiz’s findings and adding a curious fact — the company, despite doing such big business, had registered a Florida office that was in a drab office building in a remote area of Fort Lauderdale, by the airport, with neighbors that included US security agencies.

The Devil later took down his post without explanations. I reposted it here, for no reason other than, as I said at the time, I dislike memory holes. I would never have posted it if it seemed that there was anything untoward about the note.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail (5 mb PDF) that opened with a letter from Derwick’s lawyers:

The lawyers write about Wiki Anti-Corrupción (WAC), a website I have previously recommended as having a lot of interesting if ill-supported information about corruption in Venezuela. Derwick has sued WAC for defamation in local court in Miami, demanding “not less than $200 million.” They kindly included a copy of their suit (here is the lawsuit on its own, without attachments). They say WAC defamed Derwick and its leaders with claims of money laundering, fuel smuggling, coltan trafficking, and a whole list of other claims. To be clear here, nobody claims that WAC has anything to do with Devil’s Excrement or with me. The lawyers continue, referring to the Devil’s Excrement story I reposted:

The Article — which contains certain of the false and defamatory statements concerning Plaintiffs that appear on the WAC Website and are the subject of the Action — remains accessible on your website.”

But they don’t tell me what those false or defamatory statements might be. They go on:

The original author of the article has removed that page from the [Devil's Excrement] website after being informed that the page was littered with false and defamatory information about Plaintiffs. Accordingly we request that you also remove the Article.

So there you have the background to my very simple, and I think diplomatic, response:

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Mr. Torres:

I received your note of Sept. 21. If you see something on my website that you think is false or defamatory, please identify the problem as specifically as possible and support your position.

We — you and I, together — will then work out how to deal with the problem. A quick correction or a public chance to reply is often a better solution. Deletion is a last resort, and one that often doesn’t work anyway.

So for starters, just send me a copy of the letter you sent to Devil’s Excrement, ok?

Thanks,
Steven
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Wiki Anti-Corrupción’s very general response to the case is here.

Venepiramides also weighs in.

For my earlier, rather less diplomatic response, see Twitter.

UPDATE: I hadn’t seen Alek Boyd’s much more complete article about the nice people at Derwick.

2 thoughts on “Derwick Associates requests censorship, I request details

  1. Boli-Nica

    Wonder about that lawsuit. First of all it could just be a quick filing that would get tossed out quick if challenged for venue (arguably Federal District Court is proper), jurisdiction (parties loose connection to Florida and defendants connection to the website). Its could just be done to say “hey we are suing for slander in US”. Then the subject matter itself. Given the clouded facts of Derwick itself, its not hard to assert a solid defense against charges of libel and slander. Not only basic Constitutional protections, but also the right to request plaintiffs corporate and financial records everywhere.
    And then you also have the issue that the guys behind Derwick already have a Corporation domiciled in Florida, and filing a lawsuit in a Florida Court could bring them under Federal scrutiny. As in potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that FBI and US Attorneys might look into.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Funny you should say that. Sure have been seeing a lot of clicks around here from US federal agencies. Or at least I was before the election. Funny how they’ve all disappeared now.

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