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He who cuts the cake takes the biggest slice, learned the Viceroy of Odebrecht in Venezuela

Euzenando Azevedo had the doors of the Miraflores Palace open with Chávez and at the same time, he had a direct line with CEO Marcelo Odebrecht. Then, he became a key witness in the parade of plea bargains of the Lava Jato case. However, despite the many privileges, his testimony fell short. He failed to inform about some bank accounts in Switzerland that reveal that he kept money with one of the commissioners he had reported, Venezuelan lawyer Héctor Dáger.

12/08/2018

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Euzenando Azevedo tried to pass unnoticed. Little is known about the managing director of Odebrecht in Venezuela —who due to his access to Chávez regime authorities and his plenipotentiary manners, is known by some as the Viceroy of Odebrecht— since his appearance on December 15, 2016 before the Brazilian authorities. There, he confessed that they even forged Government documents and budgets. He recalled about no-bid contracts arbitrarily assigned and mentioned parallel pays for managers who speeded up payments.

But he failed to say that he had shared bank accounts in Switzerland with one of the commissioners he accused.

Euzenando Prazeres de Azevedo appears in three bank accounts in Switzerland which he shared with Venezuelan lawyer Héctor Joseph Dáger Gaspard, whom he pointed out one and a half year ago as one of the commissioners he had recruited to get the government of President Hugo Chávez to reduce the resources owed for works, like the promised and still unfinished hydroelectric dam of Tocoma, in the south of the country, in the State of Bolívar.

Azevedo reported Dáger as a lobbyist or manager who speeded up the payments that the Chavista bureaucracy dammed in Caracas. "He got Edelca (the public company Electrificación del Caroní) to pay us directly within a week or just over a week." That is what he explained while on the defendant’s seat, in front of two prosecutors who took his testimony in the courts of the city of Aracajú, in the far east of Brazil. He had to declare there. The Brazilian legal system, in contingency to face the massive Lava Jato case, simultaneously distributed in all its criminal circuits the 78 "rewarded informers" of Odebrecht, who agreed to tell everything in exchange for procedural benefits.

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Caracas

According to Azevedo’s testimony, he met Dáger in Caracas, in the parking lot of the Valle Alto home residences. He had just bought a brand new apartment in that building on the main avenue of Valle Arriba, a high class refuge in the southeast of the Venezuelan capital, and one of his new neighbors approached him to talk business. "He showed up," he told prosecutors in the case. "He was waiting for me in the garage and said he knew we had difficulties and that he could offer me the solution."

And that is how it happened. In less than two weeks, Odebrecht received over six million dollars from the Venezuelan Government past due for two years. "That surprised me," he said. "He always showed that he had privileged access with the presidents of Edelca."

That was the beginning of a business relationship where Odebrecht sent Dáger 2% of each invoice paid because he speeded up the process. "About 28 million dollars," Azevedo assured that were paid from 2006 to 2009 to the low-profile lawyer, who always knew how to move within the Chavista structure without making fuzz.

The commissions were recorded in the name of Lombriz (earthworm) in the so-called Department of Structured Operations, the euphemism that the Brazilian company used to avoid presenting it as its unit of bribes and commissions. However, stripped of the pseudonym, the name of Dáger appears in 13 bank accounts in Switzerland that receive deposits from the offshore of the so-called caja dos (box two) of Odebrecht.

Three of those bank accounts show a partnership between Dáger and no other than Euzenando Azevedo.

Pernambuco

Unlike its peers, Azevedo reported directly to the company's CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, instead of reporting to the company's Vice President for Africa and Latin America. But more importantly, he got Chávez eating out of his hands.

Discreet as a good businessman and armed with Brazilian sympathy, he knew how to move unnoticed through the twists and turns of the Bolivarian spheres, to a point that the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution never spared praise and good words for this Brazilian, born in Pernambuco, east of Brazil. "A Good friend," he affirmed publicly on November 13, 2006, while highlighting his role in the inauguration of the second bridge over the Orinoco River. "I send a warm hug to Euzenando, and a very special congratulation on his will of steel, firm while driving the work and the different works in progress in Venezuela".

Another part of the story surfaced after the death of the revolutionary Commander. Those who came to speak with Azevedo, underlined his Spanish with Venezuelan colloquialisms, as he talked about the "zaperoco" (mess) that had unleashed the Odebrecht plot and that Diosdado Cabello and the rest of the ring that surrounded Chávez had "arrechera" against him (were pissed off).

No wonder Azevedo had to leave Venezuela in 2013, when Nicolás Maduro came to power. The Venezuelan leader could not stand that behind the back of his government, the Odebrecht representative in Caracas had met his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski and contributed to his campaign, as Azevedo later told the prosecutors in the case.

He told Azevedo that he negotiated 35 million dollars for the presidential campaign of Nicolás Maduro and at the same time, another 15 million for the command of Henrique Capriles in 2013. He did not say a word, however, about bribes. Unlike rewarded informers from other countries, he never mentioned commissions to officials or overpriced works. Even less did he refer to the accounts he held in Switzerland with one of his commission agents. He probably trusted that no Venezuelan authority would investigate his words.

Lugano

The records of the Swiss bank Union Bancaire Privée show that Azevedo and Dáger shared the account number 001-6155901 of a company called Fidellis Holdings Ltd. There is also account number 128450 that the Banque Pictet & Cie had in the name of the offshore company Boreal Group Management Inc.

The special case is account 240-545623, which the same offshore Boreal Group Management Inc had in UBS Switzerland AG. The account holder, Héctor Dáger, not only registered Azevedo as an authorized signature but also two Brazilian women whose names correspond to the wife and daughter of the so-called viceroy of Odebrecht in Caracas.

This is how a list abandoned in a drawer of the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor’s Office is broken down, which was sent last year by the Prosecutor of the Swiss Confederation through its embassy in Caracas, to record a series of Venezuelan citizens linked to 27 suspicious accounts related to the tangle of under-the-table commissions and payments, which the Brazilian construction giant transferred from offshore accounts.

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In the document legalized with apostille in Lugano—the Italian-speaking Swiss city where the Public Prosecutor’s Office has its main headquarters—on November 10, 2017, under procedure number SV.17.0220-REZ, prosecutor Dounia Rizzonico - in charge of the Lava Jato case - suggests that these are companies related to the Odebrecht bribes.

"From the investigations carried out in Switzerland, it turns out that from July 2008 to March 2016, Héctor Joseph Dáger Gaspard (...) received in bank accounts attributed to him in Switzerland a total of about 49 million USD from bank accounts of companies directly or indirectly attributable to the Odebrecht group," she says. "These companies were designated by the same company as black boxes, through which bribes were paid to the end beneficiaries."

The Swiss authorities began talking about bribes after putting together the puzzle of several transfers that ended in their banks accompanied by keywords, which today Odebrecht recognizes as cryptonyms or special codes that were used to identify which work corresponded to each deposit.

Thus, they linked over 16 million dollars that ended in the accounts of Dáger - labeled with words like "Beau 1," "Carrapato," "Calmo," "Moral," "Irmao," and "Bonito" - with six of the works still unfinished: lines 5 and 2 of Metro de Caracas and Los Teques, respectively,  Metro Guarenas-Guatire, the El Diluvio-El Palmar irrigation system, and the Cacique Nigale bridge in Zulia State, and the now-famous Tocoma dam, which, if ready, would have prevented most of the current blackouts. At least it would add about 2,000 megawatts to the national power grid.

Saint John

It was not possible to obtain a formal statement from Azevedo and Dáger, explaining how come they shared bank accounts. Hidden in Sao Paulo, the Brazilian megalopolis, Azevedo has adhered to the silence required as a protected witness. The Venezuelan, on the other hand, has preferred to have a low profile from Panama City, despite the messages, letters, phone calls, and notes sent to him, in order to contrast the accusations that present him as one of the keys to unravel the Venezuelan plot of Odebrecht.

In defense of both, Azevedo never had a contract of exclusiveness. In his circle, the right and the freedom he always had to develop business parallel to his role as a director of Odebrecht stand out. They add that although their relationship developed under the shadow of Odebrecht and the Tocoma hydroelectric plant, they started personal businesses from there. However, there will still be a possible conflict of interests.

The dates do not match; much less the works and the amounts reported in the Lava Jato trials. According to Azevedo’s plea bargain, Dáger received about 28 million until 2009. However, the deposits in Switzerland and several transfers leaked months ago in the heat of the Lava Jato scandal from the Meinl Bank —the bank that Odebrecht bought and customized in Saint John, capital of the Caribbean island of Antigua—, not only showed that it was much more money, but that he continued receiving deposits for at least five more years.

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Odebrecht’s offshore Innovation Research Engineering and Development alone shows 14 transfers from the Meinl Bank that between 2012 and 2014 reached Dáger, for over 14 million dollars that it kept in the accounts of two other of its firms, Altea Capital and Kenvest Corp.

A good part of these funds were then transferred to the accounts of Azevedo, but it must be noted that this is not the end. The Swiss first noted that Dáger received around 49 million from Odebrecht’s corruption offshore and ten other related accounts, but then they said that he sent a slightly larger sum to Azevedo.

"Part of the money deposited in bank accounts of Dáger, specifically a global amount of about 64.8 million USD, was then transferred - between 2009 and 2015 - to bank accounts of Euzenando Prazeres de Azevedo in various Swiss banks," affirms Swiss prosecutor Dounia Rezzonico in the certified letter sent to her Venezuelan counterparts. "All bank accounts of Azevedo in Switzerland have been closed in the meantime and the money has been transferred to other bank accounts of Azevedo abroad and to unknown third parties."

No wonder Azevedo even closed the personal trust that he shared with his wife and children in Switzerland, among which was the name of Euzenando Azevedo Junior, who, at 38, emerges in the United States with a dozen companies ranging from restaurants, like The Tap or Griddler's Burgers & Dogs, to real estate in Florida and Massachusetts. Also construction companies like 418 Real Estate LLC, with which he will build a housing complex of 18 apartments equipped with parking, shops and restaurants, on Cambridge Street in South Boston, that is pending municipal permits.

(*)This is a work published and researched simultaneously by the Latin American Network of Structured Research Journalism, which gathers IDL-Reporteros in Peru, La Prensa in Panama, La Nación in Argentina, Sudestada in Uruguay, Quinto Elemento Lab in Mexico, and Armando.info in Venezuela.



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