Polar vs. Venezuela — interesting news that got lost in the shuffle

Amidst the flurry of news in the middle of February — Chavez cancer, Venezuela shipping diesel to Syria, my folks coming to visit — I never even noticed this article come out. But man, it’s interesting. I had no idea that Empresas Polar had taken the Venezuelan government to international arbitration. This is at least the second case of an ostensibly Venezuelan company using a foreign shell company to get protection under international arbitration rules, rather than being stuck with the rather weak protections of Venezuela’s domestic court system.

Let the brainiacs at Reuters tell the story:

Top Venezuela firm files arbitration against Chavez government

(Reuters) – A Barbados-based holding company led by executives of Venezuelan food and beermaker Empresas Polar has filed an international arbitration claim against President Hugo Chavez’s government over its nationalization of a fertilizer project, documents show.

The move may set a precedent for Venezuelan companies seeking access to international courts to settle disputes with the socialist government that otherwise would be litigated by local judges, who critics say are controlled by Chavez.

You can read the whole thing here.

Oh you want more? Here’s some more.

…The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, says the Barbados-based “Gambrinus, Corp.” registered a claim against Venezuela on December 2 in relation to a “fertilizer enterprise.”…

But a source close to the case, who asked not to be identified, confirmed the dispute was over fertilizer-maker Fertinitro, which Chavez nationalized in 2010. Polar had a 10 percent stake in it.

Others partners included state petrochemicals company Pequiven, an indirect subsidiary of Italian oil company ENI and U.S.-based Koch Industries, which in July filed for ICSID arbitration over its 35 percent stake in Fertinitro.

Gambrinus company documents obtained by Reuters show a clear link between that firm and Polar. At least two Gambrinus directors are Polar executives, and all seven Gambrinus directors listed in the documents are linked to Polar in some capacity.

Asked to confirm or give details of the Gambrinus case, a Polar spokeswoman said the company had no comment. The office of Venezuela’s attorney general, named as a respondent in the case, did not respond to requests for comment. Koch Industries and Pequiven also did not respond to requests for comment.

Wow, real reporting. Gotta love that stuff.