Yes, you too can become knowledgable about the world lithium industry in just 13 minutes, and your house will end up cleaner as a result. Follow these simple instructions:
1. Put computer speaker near kitchen.
2. Click this link. (MP3)
3. Click play.
4. Wash dishes.
Here is a very good explanation of the current state of play, and the full background, of the Ponzi scheme that got about a half-billion dollars from the Venezuelan state oil company’s pension fund. It starts with a bunch about the recent activity around Moris Beracha’s Movilway company. But the main stuff of interest is lower down:
Illarramendi’s whole Ponzi scheme unravelled in January 2011, when the SEC charged him with engaging in a multi-year Ponzi scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars. On March 7, 2011, Illarramendi pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of investment advisor fraud, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, to obstruct an official proceeding and to defraud the SEC, for which he is still awaiting sentencing…
I realize these complex financial frauds aren’t for everyone, and this report is pretty technical. But what’s fascinating here is seeing how many people who never come near oil try to stick their fingers in the money stream that normally flows back up an oil pipeline.
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA is known for overpaying for some of its purchases, for two reasons. One is that many companies are sick of dealing with PDVSA’s late payments, and prefer to now deal with middlemen. The other reason is that PDVSA workers like to overpay if they can in turn receive kickbacks. It’s win-win for buyer and seller, with the only one being screwed the Venezuelan public. El pueblo, as it known locally.
Today, Gustavo Coronel posts a masterful deconstruction of the apparent overpayment for the Aban Pearl, a semisubmersible offshore drilling platform that PDVSA rented in 2008. The nice thing about investigating drilling contracts is that the machinery is so expensive that it is conventional for the owner of the equipment to disclose the day rate, or daily rental price. In the case of Coronel’s investigation, the price that PDVSA said it was paying was much higher than the price that the ship’s owners said they were getting. Money was disappearing somewhere along the way. He has been looking into it for years, and his results are very interesting. Continue reading
I’m busy working on several bigger stories, and that’s kept me from blogging here as much as I might like. I continue to scribble a little on Tweeter and other folks have been writing a-plenty. One I have been enjoying lately is Marcelo Ballvé, who wrote th’other day about Argentina’s oil situation.
This site has been a bit slow this past week, as I went off and did some paid work (hey, guy’s gotta eat) and this may continue for a while. If you’re eager for reading material about South American oil-fueled corruption (and hey, who isn’t) and can handle a bit of slang-free Spanish, go read “Wiki Anti-Corrupción,” where some anonymous writers are putting together epic, thousands-of-words-long explanations of various Venezuelan scandals, many of them in or connected to the oil industry. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of their writing, and I certainly can’t say they are without bias, but their contributions are fascinating. They certainly offer interested investigators a wealth of leads, if not conclusive proof of their allegations. Go check it out.
Felix Salmon writes about the incredible Noah Lehrer and his recent challenges as a blogger at the New Yorker. But he isn’t writing about Noah Lehrer, he’s writing an open letter to all of you reporters out there — and yes, I can see you through these little holes in the Internet, reading this blerg. This is my open notebook. You should have one too. Your work will be better for it. Go read Felix’s diatribe on the topic.
On the rare occasions that I say something funny, I am usually plagiarizing Tom Tomorrow, author of the comic strip This Modern World. He is one of the sharpest minds in political commentary, always grabbing just the right analogy and turning it into something that makes me laugh aloud. (That’s quite different from LOL, which apparently stands for “acknowledge that something is intended as a joke without tiring out my precious facial muscles with the most minimal reaction”).
Mr Tomorrow is raising money these days with a clever new initiative, Sparky’s List. Please go read his comics, read his pitch, and give him all your money. Actually it’s not “all your money” at all, it’s an incredibly cheap and easy way for readers like us to support quality work. Why, I may imitate his system one of these days…
Here’s an example of his sharp observations — a strip written in the 1990s that could have been written in the 1910s or the 2010s. We love timeless messages, especially when they are really frickin funny. Continue reading
Here’s Tom O’Donnell’s latest in MEES. He first goes into a very detailed analysis of each Iranian energy project in Venezuela. He shows that it’s mostly vaporware, or as we say in the former British Empire, vapourware. And then he looks at whether his findings have any bearing on the whole Iran-Venezuela TERROR-BE-SCARED line that continues to filter out of the US. I quote much here but do go click:
… unsubstantiated assumptions about the nature, scope and success of Iranian-Venezuelan joint ventures abound. According to these observers, Venezuela’s Bolivarian oil policy has facilitated Iran to create a significant Latin American “terror network,” often making claims about Hezbollah in this respect, or that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are providing training for the Colombia’s FARC guerrillas in Western Venezuela and “asymmetric warfare” training for the Venezuelan military. Others claim that Iran has been extracting uranium ore in Venezuela including in the guise of making cement, engaging in extensive money laundering, flying large quantities of contraband to Tehran on a (formerly) regular flight from Caracas, and, generally, preparing to counter any U.S. and/or Israeli attack on Iran by creating havoc in Latin America, perhaps even cutting off oil shipments to the U.S.
It is very difficult to prove or disprove such assertions, and there may be validity to some. However, great skepticism should pertain when on-the-ground evidence shows that, on the oil-and-gas front, which is the supposed forté of Venezuela and the central focus of President Chávez’ signature Bolivarian diplomacy, there has been a woeful and chronic inability by PDVSA to fulfill agreements with Petropars, the Iranian flag-bearer there.
Mmm, tasty morsel. Now go read the whole story.
PS: A special note to owners of websites that prefer to repost entire articles. This is how you cite something you like. Feel free to use this post as a model.
Go read Quasecarioca as he points out the hypocrisy built into the carbon-spewing mess that is the UN’s upcoming climate change summit.
The Rio Centro convention center is a hallmark icon of the disastrous, planet-warming, urban-planning-done-wrong that Rio+20 is supposed to be working to counteract. Rio Centro is located in the rapidly expanding Barra da Tijuca suburb that turns the walkable, pedestrian-friendly center of Rio completely on its head with a maze of highways, shopping malls, parking lots and gated communities.
I only add that what he says is new only in degree, not in kind. The first Rio summit, in 1992, was held in an equally remote conference centre for “security” reasons. Heads of state flew around in helicopters and zipped through the city in motorcades as nervous camo-covered teens with M-16s guarded every overpass. The simultaneous NGO summit in 1992 was at least transit-accessible, but as I have mentioned before, I was the only person there to arrive by bicycle. The whole professional activist and climate-bureaucrat world is one of the more infuriating realities for those of us who ride bikes and eat local vegetarian food as we try to limit our carbon footprints. A single climate change bigwig, be s/he from the UN or NRDC or WWF or Nature Conservancy, can swamp a lot of the good done by those of us who try to live lower-impact lives. As David Brower said, “Conservationists have to win again and again and again. The enemy only has to win once.”
Anyway, read Quasecarioca. He’s smarter than me and is actually informed and stuff. Yes, you — why haven’t you clicked yet? Click it.