Nervis or El Mundo? Hard to decide whom to trust

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.21.20 AMWho to believe when it comes to $50 million bribes in Venezuela? Do we believe Nervis Villalobos? Here’s what he told this website in 2013:

Nervis Villalobos, a former deputy minister of energy in Venezuela, denies having carried a message offering a bribe from electricity contractor Derwick Associates to Venezuela Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez.

The allegation against Villalobos appears in a lawsuit filed a week ago by Otto Reich against two principals of Derwick and an alleged associate of theirs. Villalobos called in response to my request for comment on the case.

“I know Derwick very well,” he said. Later, he said “they aren’t unknown to me.” He said it was possible that he had flown in a jet belonging to the company, adding that he flies at times on rented jets and that he doesn’t always know who owns them.

He said he “hasn’t had anything to do with PDVSA, the Ministry, or anything like that” since he left government in 2006. He said his government service left him unable to open a US bank account, and that his name has shown up in several news articles, but that the accusations are false. He doesn’t usually respond because “if one starts to defend oneself against every attack, one ends up going crazy.”

Villalobos said his work usually consists of feasibility studies and other consulting work in the Venezuelan electricity industry.

And here’s what El Mundo, the Madrid newspaper, is reporting today:

The Spanish company Duro Felguera paid a fortune to a Chavista leader for his “oral” consulting in the bidding for a huge contract in Venezuela, according to documentation collected by the Spanish investigation at Banco Madrid.

In the dossier from the Executive Service for the Prevention of Money Laundering (Sepblac) it gives evidence of a suspicious contract from Duro Felguera with Nervis Villalobos, a former deputy minister of energy in Venezuela in the Hugo Chávez administration, according to police sources consulted by El Mundo…

Villalobos’ company didn’t have any documentation, but rather was to provide “general oral information, and could also assemble written reports if deemed necessary,”… Investigators consider it unbelievable to pay $50 million for oral reports…

The goal of the contract, according to police sources, was “advise on the possible granting of a public works contract for a combined-cycle thermoelectric power plant of 1,080 MW (Termocentro).” The new contract was dated 12 April 2011, but meanwhile, 4 May 2009, the company managed to score a construction contract for Termocentro to provide Caracas with power, to be completed in 2013, with a value of 1.5 billion euros…

Duro responded yesterday with “this is about a totally normal and legally notarized contract.” They added that “no organ of the state has requested information about this from Duro Felguera, nor have we been object of any investigation.”

…Villalobos moved money at will in the Spanish affiliate of the Andorran bank, where he had on hand 3 million euros in his accounts. In April 2012, he transferred $2 million to another account of his in Miami and in March 2014 got Banco Madrid to lend him 1 million euros to buy a home in Spain, using shares of a Venezuelan company in the Islands as collateral.

Nervis come clear things up, I thought you said you did feasibility studies.

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