As I mentioned early Sunday, I continue to track the Illarramendi case aka PDVSA Pension Ponzi. I have been slowly trying to reach the people named in case documents and rumors to better understand their roles. Then, yesterday, a Florida-based reporter named Casto Ocando tweeted the following:
That is, “FBI investigation of Moris Beracha presumably causes freezing of his $290 million account, according to Washington sources.” And: “Sources: FBI arrests banker Moris Beracha and seizes his passport. Beracha later gets bail for $10 million but remains confined.”
And several hours later:
“Moris Beracha gave me his version and said he isn’t out on bail, hasn’t been visited by the FBI and is at home in New York.” Followed by “@aliasyourmother Moris Beracha’s version is just that, his version. It’s not the whole truth.”
So I called Moris Beracha to get his “version” first-hand.
Beracha said he has not had any contact with the FBI or SEC, isn’t under arrest, and is the victim of a smear campaign out of Venezuela. He said he knows Illarramendi, but his only relationship with the Connecticut-based banker was professional. Illarramendi sold credit-linked notes backed by Venezuelan bonds, which Beracha at times bought. The money was supposed to be passed directly through to Credit Suisse, he said. He said he is a victim in the case.
I don’t know who was denouncing Beracha et al. to Ocando. And I don’t know 100% that Beracha was telling me the truth — though of course I wouldn’t be publishing this if I felt like he was lying. One thing we can learn from Illarramendi is that some people are very good liars. So I am not going to prejudge who is telling the truth here. But it’s clear that either someone is lying or there was a grave misunderstanding.
Hopefully at some point Ocando will explain a bit more about yesterday’s tweets. I haven’t been able to track him down to ask him directly — his old miamiherald e-mail is bouncing, and I don’t see an address for him at Univision or on Twitter or Facebook. One thing we do know: Jose Vicente Rangel, who is often wrong, also denounced Beracha yesterday. Ocando runs no risk of being called a JVR chump, however — he has published at least one exposé on Rangel. It’s all very odd.
It’s depressing to see this from Ocando. The guy is a go-getter reporter. Just this weekend he got an interview with alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled. So maybe I have no place lecturing the guy. But I’m going to: Just as a general rule, it’s good to be really, really sure before you say that someone was arrested.
There is enough rumor and speculation around any PDVSA story. You wouldn’t believe the rumors I’m hearing about this stuff. Or maybe you would — which is why I’m not publishing them. The world is overloaded with BS. We need properly reported news. If it comes a bit slower, that is a small price to pay in order to remain accurate, or at least fair.