Tag Archives: spain

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.

Front page of El Mundo (Madrid): Chavista leaders named in Spain laundering probe

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 11.43.11 PMI have rarely been so surprised by a news story as I was by this article in El Mundo, from Madrid. I’ll translate the key portions, but if you can handle a bit of ye olde español please click through and read it there. I’m sure many people contributed to this crackdown but one of the few to put name and face to his criticisms of this group of alleged thieves has been Alek Boyd. Dude, take a bow.

Chavista bigwigs investigated for laundering in Banco Madrid

…Police sources assure El Mundo that a dossier in the hands of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission touches on at least three ex-deputy ministers of Venezuela, the ex-intelligence chief, an ex-executive of the state oil company PDVSA, and a businessman considered close to Chávez, who has handled funds in Spain that allegedly derived from massive bribes in exchange for contracts from the Venezuelan regime.

All these Venezuelan bigwigs appear in the list of clients discovered in the Spanish affiliate of the Banca Privat d’Andorra (BPA), without the entity having taken necessary measures to avoid money laundering, a very grave compliance failure under Spanish law…

The Spanish investigation goes beyond information released Monday by FinCEN, the anti-laundering unit in the USA, and gives specific names showing that at least part of the Bolivarian regime’s power structure took advantage of its position of power to do business for itself, behind the back of the pueblo. The US statement said “BPA facilitated transfers in the amount of $4.2 billion” related to Venezuelan public corruption. It didn’t give names.

According to police sources, among the clients at Banco Madrid were the former Deputy Minister of Energy Nervis Gerardo Villalobos. The Spanish investigation connects him with companies in Madeira and the Virgin Islands and he is considered close to Venezuela’s current UN ambassador, the former president of the giant state oil company, Rafael Ramírez…

According to the investigation, Villalobos received “consulting payments” from the Spanish company Duro Felguera, which was chosen in May 2009 for a 1.5 billion-euro contract to build a combined-cycle power plant to provide power to Caracas.

The president of the company that oversaw the contracting, Electricidad de Caracas, and deputy minister of electrical development, was Javier Alvarado Ochoa… The police sources considered it unheard of that Banco Madrid didn’t communicate with Sepblac [Spain’s anti-laundering organization] nor undertake a special examination of these clients. The board of the bank and the bank itself have been reprimanded for serious and very serious offenses [for failing to report possible money-laundering]…

The insurance businessman Omar Farias also appears in the group… Farias ran the Spanish branch of the company Inversiones Porbónica.

In the Sepblac investigations, Farias appears as a key person with possible B accounts in Banco Madrid related with possible shady foreign dealings of the regime. The Spanish entity managed to block a 13-million [euro] operation realized by Farias, but didn’t undertake any investigation, according to sources familiar with the Sepblack dossier, which was presented last Monday to members of the board of Banco Madrid.

The mix of business and regime contacts is personified by another client of Banco Madrid, Carlos Luis Aguilera Borjas, ex-director of security for the government. In Spain, Borjas administered the company CLAB-Consultoría Inmobiliaria and is also one of the main shareholders and board members of Constructora Girardot 53, one of the companies that was blessed in the last decade with contracts to work on the Metro de Caracas, while Chávez was president.

The Spanish investigation is looking into relations between Aguilera and Spanish companies that received large contracts in the Metro de Caracas. In 2008, the Unión Temporal de Empresas (UTE) formed by CAF, Cobra, Constructora Hispánica and the company Dimetronic managed to receive a contract to remodel Line 1 of the metro in the capital for 1.4 billion euros…

Also from Chávez’s security apparatus is another Banco Madrid client, ex Deputy Minister Alcides Rondón.

It is one of the cases where the bank failed to exercise its required [due diligence]… It’s the same in the case of Francisco Rafael Jiménez Villarroel, ex-representative of PDVSA, also when Rafael Ramírez was in charge.

Yes, among those named are Nervis Villalobos, long alleged to be associated with various companies that overcharged Venezuela for electricity generating equipment; Duro Felguera, partner in one of the biggest gold-plated projects; Javier Alvarado, who aside from being head of EDC and Bariven at times is also father of a Bolichico; and a member of the illustrious Rondón family, which includes Rafael Ramírez’s wife (Beatriz Sanso Rondón de Ramírez) and Venezuela’s most powerful man, Diosdado Cabello Rondón.

Not much to add here except that this humble website did the only interview I’ve ever seen with Nervis Villalobos in which anyone asked him directly about alleged corruption. He denied it. Go take a look. (Read the comments, too.)

Oh also, the El Mundo article makes repeated mention of Otto Reich’s lawsuit in the US in which he specifically said that Alvarado’s son was involved in acts of corruption as part of Derwick Associates, the company that was remarkably successful at negotiating deals with the allegedly corrupt electricity industry in Venezuela. When Reich first sued, I was skeptical about how well his case would do. It’s doing pretty well. Derwick has gotten some charges thrown out, but the case is moving ahead, with lots of discovery. The recent court filings have mostly been a long back and forth of sealed documents. But what’s clear at this point is that someone, somewhere is taking notice of corruption in Venezuela’s electricity sector, and it’s not working out too well for those who collaborated with multi-billion-dollar extractions of Venezuelan wealth.

Puerto Rico asphalt company sues Arevenca, Madasi, Miguel Lausell for $13.6 million

Arevenca, the fake oil company long documented in these pages for its deceptive web site and involvement in a failed airline in Aruba, is being sued along with several people who allegedly acted as salesmen for a scam in Puerto Rico. The Betteroads Asphalt Corp. alleges in a suit filed Sept. 4 in the US territory that it bought a cargo of asphalt from Arevenca following a sales pitch by prominent Puerto Rico businessman Miguel Lausell on behalf of local Arevenca representative Madasi Oil Co. The suit accuses Arevenca, Madasi and individuals including Lausell of fraud and breach of contract and demands a refund of $7.8 million that Betteroads spent on asphalt and another $5.8 million in other damages.

Betteroads, according to the complaint and a series of e-mails filed with the court, thought that the $7.8 million it sent to the Swiss bank account of Arevenca would entitle it to a tanker of asphalt, and was disappointed to find that tanker-loads of excuses, lies and delays were wholly inadequate for the task of resurfacing highways and parking lots even in the magical realm of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. After months spent arguing with various representatives of Arevenca, including company president Francisco Javier González Álvarez, Lausell, and others, Betteroads has turned to the court systems of the United States, which seems to be the end-point of many conflicts involving shady Caribbean and Venezuelan operators. Continue reading

Fascinating AP story on Cuba oil hunt, US sanctions

AP-Cuba doing their job. Look at this:

Experts say it is not unusual that a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) deep exploratory well drilled at a cost of more than $100 million by Spanish oil giant Repsol was a bust. Four out of five such wells find nothing in the high-stakes oil game, and petroleum companies are built to handle the losses.

But Cuba has more at stake, and only a few more spins left of the roulette wheel. The enormous Scarabeo-9 platform being used in the hunt is the only one in the world that can drill in Cuban waters without incurring sanctions under the U.S. economic embargo, and it is under contract for only one to four more exploratory wells before it heads off to Brazil.

Go check it out.