Tag Archives: crime

Odebrecht — Just a Brazilian issue?

Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Brazil’s biggest engineering and construction company, is in jail in Brazil on allegations of kickbacks in the procurement of oil industry materials to Petrobras. Without prejudging his guilt or innocence, I think it’s fair to say he isn’t doing himself any favours with e-mails like this:

Brazilian police said on Wednesday they intercepted a note from the jailed chief executive of Odebrecht SA to his lawyers asking to “destroy email,” after he became the highest-profile executive arrested in Brazil’s largest ever corruption investigation.

The handwritten note, reproduced by Federal Police and posted in court documents online, says “destroy email drilling rigs.”

Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Brazil’s largest engineering and construction conglomerate, was arrested Friday in a sweeping investigation into a kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. [ID:nL1N0Z50JB]

Dora Cavalcanti, a lawyer for Odebrecht, called the publication of the note “an act of extreme bad faith by the police,” and said there was nothing criminal about its contents or Odebrecht’s intent.

“That phrase ‘destroy email’ meant ‘explain’ or ‘refute’ the allegations about the email,” Cavalcanti told Reuters, adding that it was one of seven points in Odebrecht’s notes for his plea for habeas corpus, or release from unlawful imprisonment.

Yes, clearly, he was only saying that the e-mail needed to be destroyed metaphorically. I’m all for metaphoric destruction. When you growl “I will destroy you” of course you don’t mean that you will put someone in a meat grinder. Rather, you mean you will harm the person’s reputation. Something Mr. Odebrecht is learning all about, now that I think of it.

Joking aside, the question is, does Odebrecht have operations in other oil-producing countries? With an ostensibly weak compliance regime in Brazil, might there be something to investigate in other countries? Happily, the answer is no. Because Odebrecht operates only in strictly controlled, low-corruption jurisdictions:

Odebrecht Oil & Gas offers integrated solutions for the upstream oil and gas industry in Brazil, and selectively, in Angola, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico, both during the investment as well as the operations phase.

Oh good, nothing to worry about.

Update a few minutes later: I see the NY Times does Angola today:

Corruption Is Killing Children in Angola

This is a video report that I’ll never be able to do again. It’s about Angola, an oil-rich and fabulously corrupt country that also happens to be thedeadliest place in the world to be a child.

Angola, naturally, doesn’t welcome journalists. It took me about five years to get a journalist visa to get into Angola, and after my reporting I doubt I’ll get another visa as long as the current regime remains in power. So at The Times, we poured a lot of time and effort into the story of what corruption does to a country.

For me, the most compelling moments are those of rural Angola, the villages where people live without any access to doctors or dentists. We simply drove down a highway for hours, and then twice took small dirt roads quite randomly to see where they would lead, and then stopped in villages and chatted with people. It’s pretty heartbreaking to see kids suffering untreated from disease and unable to attend school, or to meet a mom who has lost 10 children — and it’s not just sad, but infuriating when you see it in a country that is rich with oil and diamonds. Then you remember that the Angolan president’s daughter is a billionaire, that Western governments are buddying up to the president — and, well, you feel you owe it to the villagers you met to tell their story in their own words. So we shot some videos to run with my columns. May this add pressure on the government to spend its oil wealth not just on Porsches and Champagne for the leaders, but also on health and education for ordinary Angolans.

Go watch Kristof’s video if you can stand it. And don’t worry about Odebrecht because I’m sure they had nothing to do with any of this.

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PetroTiger CEO pleads guilty to FCPA violation in Colombia

PolitickerNJ has the story.

The former co-chief executive officer (CEO) of PetroTiger Ltd. – a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and formerly with an office in New Jersey – pleaded guilty today to conspiring to pay bribes to a foreign government official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)…

Sigelman admitted to conspiring with co-CEO Knut Hammarskjold, PetroTiger’s former general counsel Gregory Weisman, and others to make illegal payments of $333,500 to David Duran, an employee of the Colombian national oil company, Ecopetrol…

Colombia … announced in March of this year the arrests of Duran, his wife, a former employee of PetroTiger, and several other officials from Ecopetrol…

Go read it all

And here, yours at no extra charge, is the superseding indictment.

Important crime news

That’s right, very important, right here.

Nice-Pak Products, Inc., a manufacturer of wet wipes, will stop advertising moist toilet tissue as flushable unless it can substantiate that the product is safe to flush.

That’s under a settlement between the company and the Federal Trade Commission.

nicepak

Nice-Pak was represented by Trenton Norris of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C.

Nice-Pak will no longer claim that its moist toilet tissue is safe for sewer and septic tanks unless it has substantiation for those claims.

Nice-Pak will also stop providing trade customers, such as retailers, with information to make such unsubstantiated claims.

Oh wait, no. That’s not the important one. This is.

Y en español también.

h/t quico

UPDATE. But seriously. Can you all please take your triumphalist “ooh la la here comes the collapse of el rrregimen” and just shut up and think for a minute?

This all is not especially good news. Find me an example of a country where the US has taken out top members of the government and things got significantly better within a decade. If this is really the way things are going, then it’s where things are going. But please don’t pretend that this is good news. This is horrible news. If the US moves on Cabello and/or other top members of the Venezuelan state, we are probably looking at a long period of extreme instability. Not fun.

And forget about Diosdado and friends. What about all these scumballs who are turning state’s witness? You think these are some sorts of charmers? Why do you suppose that the US has never brought charges against the many people whose criminal activity has been decently described on this website, and even more on those of Alek Boyd or Caracas Gringo? These are not nice people. These are assholes who have stolen, quite often, hundreds of millions of dollars from the people of Venezuela. And since they are able to give a bit of chisme on Diosdado Cabello, they get to live out their days in fancy suburban homes and send their kids to fancy universities and live happily ever after, while Venezuela falls ever deeper into a pit.

It’s a disaster, it’s a mess, and the people who should be doing something about it are the people of Venezuela, especially the relatively well off, literate and networked expatriates. But the extent of their organizing is to retweet Nelson Bocaranda once a day and then go back to the pool.

ANOTHER UPDATE: What the Devil says.

Want to understand Colombia’s gold mining situation?

You need to read the newish Atavist book, The Devil Underground, by Nadja Drost. Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.57 AM   Here, Drost has written the best explanation I’ve ever seen of the battle for Antioquia between the Urabeños and the Rastrojos. And has shown herself to be a brave, serious reporter who will stop at nothing to really understand a story. And has given readers an idea of what they buy when they buy gold, particularly Colombian gold. She has also written one of the most beautiful pieces of literary nonfiction I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about Gran Colombia Gold, which is trying to turn Segovia into a normal professional mine. I have been reading about this situation for years, but now I feel like I am about 10 times closer to understanding it — even though this book barely mentions Gran Colombia. It’s well worth your US$3.99. Go read it.

UPDATE: I hadn’t seen this, which shows that a connection between crime and gold may remain present in Colombia.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy

Chile detained Cristian Labbé, the former mayor of the Providencia borough, for allegedly conspiring to kidnap and kill people during the military dictatorship led by General Agusto Pinochet. Labbé was Pinochet’s bodyguard and allegedly served at Tejas Verdes, a major torture and execution center. After the dictatorship, the diverse, but majority upper-middle-class, voters of the Providencia borough repeatedly elected Labbé to be their mayor.

11152010141As mayor, he was known for maintaining the symbols of the dictatorship. He resisted to the end the proposed renaming of September 11 Avenue, one of the main streets through the borough. The dictatorship named the street for the date of the coup that brought Pinochet to power. Locals frequently corrected the street signs to say things like “Mal Día” or “Terrible” instead of 11 Septiembre.

But beyond the symbolic, Labbé also persisted in committing acts that should be considered human rights violations. When students — many as young as 14 — nonviolently occupied high schools across the country to demand educational reform, Providencia was the only place I heard about where police fired tear gas into the buildings to evict them. The use of gas in enclosed spaces continued even when elementary school children were present. Labbé unilaterally closed down schools and tried to expel any students who didn’t live in the borough, despite a supposed national policy allowing students to attend any schools they pleased. In short, he supported the use of extrajudicial punishments, including the brutal corporal punishment of tear gas, against children. When questioned, he scoffed at constituents.

His bullying attitude and a gradual shift in the demographics of Providencia (hardcore dictatorship supporters moving further uptown or just dying off) brought him an electoral defeat in 2012. He was so bitter at the loss that he stopped going to work during his lame duck period. The first meeting of the city council under the new mayor turned into a jubilation by the new regime, who promptly returned September 11 Avenue to its old title, New Providencia.

I don’t know what he did at Tejas Verdes, if anything. It’s now up to the courts to figure it out. In any case, this is another example of Chile showing the more “developed” world how to deal with rights violators.

SEC finds scheme to rob Venezuelan people, misuses term “massive”

The SEC charged bond traders with running a bunch of fake trades to get commissions and rob the Venezuelan people. The take was, as usual, shared with the revolutionary people’s power executives charged with protecting the pueblo, and as usual, the officials in charge will be protected. (Thanks to commenter Jau for pointing this out.)

Anyway it’s an interesting read. It starts:

Washington, D.C., May 6, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged four individuals with ties to a New York City brokerage firm in a scheme involving millions of dollars in illicit bribes paid to a high-ranking Venezuelan finance official to secure the bond trading business of a state-owned Venezuelan bank.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the global markets group at broker-dealer Direct Access Partners (DAP) executed fixed income trades for customers in foreign sovereign debt. DAP Global generated more than $66 million in revenue for DAP from transaction fees – in the form of markups and markdowns – on riskless principal trade executions in Venezuelan sovereign or state-sponsored bonds for Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES). A portion of this revenue was illicitly paid to BANDES Vice President of Finance, María de los Ángeles González de Hernandez, who authorized the fraudulent trades.

The annoying thing about the situation is that the SEC calls this a “massive kickback scheme.” They are talking about a country where quite likely billions of dollars a year are taken in kickback schemes. Sadly, $60 million is a drop in the Venezuelan bucket.

And since nobody else seems to have mentioned it in English, yes, that’s the same BANDES that employed Alejandro Andrade as president during this same period. (H/T Corina.) Unreliable, unsourced reports said Andrade is “behind” the recent purchase of Globovisión, Venezuela’s most politically conservative television station, but I don’t have any evidence that this is so.

Harvard U company prosecuted & fined for illegal logging in Chile

CIPER, Chile’s top-notch investigative reporting specialist, put out this report three weeks ago and for some reason it has made zero impact in the English press. The only version was a full translation on I Love Chile, a nice enough website, but still. A local holding of Harvard University being prosecuted for environmental crimes in lovely southern Chile? WTF? Do you have any idea how precious southern Chile’s native forests are? And how rare? There is a reason why it is always forbidden to cut native forest in this country. It’s cause during the dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of hectares were turned into tree farms. There is no reason an educational institution should be boosting its endowment at the expense of the little remaining forest we’ve got. Here’s how I Love Chile’s version starts out:

Harvard University Companies Accused of Illegal Logging in Chiloé

Harvard University currently owns 5,475 acres of land in Ancud alone. In Argentina, it owns 208,210 acres.

By Paulette Desormeaux and Josefina Court

Since 2004, Harvard University has created at least eleven companies to exploit the forest industry in Chile. One of these is Agrícola Brinzal, which faces two lawsuits in Ancud. The National Forest Corporation (CONAF) pressed charges against the company for the illegal clearfelling of 189 acres of native forest, and also for breaching the forest management plan – they reforested 181 acres of land with eucalyptus instead of native plant species. The same company received reforestation subsidies from the Chilean government of about CL$114 million between 2007 and 2010.

In December 2011, a small group of farm owners showed up at the Agrupación de Ingenieros Forestales por el Bosque Nativo (AIFBN) in Ancud to share their concerns: a company bought adjoining lands to their properties and was cutting down native forest to plant eucalyptus. Javier Sanzana, one of the forest engineers from AIFBN who works in the tech support program for farming communities, decided to check the lands located in Aguas Buenas, Choroihué and Belben, all in Ancud’s central zone. What he saw left no doubt.

“There were the remains of recently cut trees,” he recalled. Sanzana also confirmed that in some of the zones, there were eucalyptus trees planted less than one meter from streams, and the remnants from the cut trees were blocking some of those streams. (MUCH MORE FOLLOWS.)

Yes, you know what I’m going to say: Click and read the whole thing. And for those of you at Harvard, please ask your admins WTF. The only response they gave to CIPER was “HMC has a policy of not discussing specific investments or investment strategies.” CIPER calls that a “weak” response. I agree.