Pequiven, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, sought shelter in tax havens to legalize its association with Iranian company National Petrochemical Company, from which Veniran emerged. Although the Panamanian law firm was suspicious of the alliance between the then presidents Hugo Chávez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, it finally solved the inconvenience to please both clients.
Pequiven also registered companies in tax havens. To register companies in the British Virgin Islands, the Petrochemical Corporation of Venezuela used the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, from which the already famous Panama Papers came out.
Established in 1977, the Venezuelan state company resorted to the same services required by some private entrepreneurs to avoid taxes or remain anonymous. It did it together with its Iranian counterpart of the National Petrochemical Company to formalize company Veniran, the joint venture that promises methanol for 10 years under a business alliance between Caracas and Tehran.
The company was registered on August 7, 2007, under the name of Veniran Petrochemical Company Limited in the registry of the British Virgin Islands, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, east of Puerto Rico, which shares its economy between the Caribbean tourism and the bonanza offered by offshore jurisdictions.
The original idea was to register the company in Panama, but the directors of Mossack Fonseca rejected that option in January 2007, a few days after the first resolution issued by the United Nations Organization against the Iranian government because of the nuclear program developed by the country without the approval of the West.
"We have decided not to register the Panamanian company due to the recent United Nations restrictions on Iran," said Mossack Fonseca by an email addressed to the managers of Amaco, an Aruba firm that Pequiven had hired for this task. "Even if your client has not declared that the company is engaged in these matters, we rather not to involve any of our firms with any business that has relations with Iran," they added.
The decision was made even in the highest levels of the law firm. Chris Zollinger - one of the partners - warned that it was not a good idea to get close to the Caracas-Tehran alliance: "It seems too risky for our reputation. Besides that, even though we are not politicians, I do not think we should indirectly help Chavez and Ahmadinejad with their common plans. "
That was noticed on January 15, 2007 in one of the many communications that are now known after the filtering of the so-called Panama Papers. Three months later, however, the same firm ended up taking steps to establish Veniran not in Panama City but in Tortola, the capital of the 40 British Virgin Islands.
After a new request, Mossack Fonseca's office in the Virgin Islands answered that there was no problem with opening the company in that jurisdiction, and it finally opened the company under registration number 1423568, in the name of Venezuela and Iran in equal parts.
Pequiven holds 49% of the shares while the remaining 1% of the Venezuelan portion is held by International Petrochemical Holding Limited, another offshore firm that Pequiven established in the Virgin Islands and from which it manages its share in joint ventures operating in Western Venezuela, such as Sofilago and Grupo Zuliano, as well as the trading company International Petrochemical Sales Limited.
The Iranians, for their part, only insured 1% of the pie directly in their territory, through Petrochemical Industries Investments Company. The other 49% of this financial engineering is in the United Kingdom in the name of NPC International Limited, a subsidiary of the Iranian National Petrochemical Company, on which international sanctions are imposed since it appeared on the so-called Clinton list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.
Although the Venezuelan State companies have accounts and subsidiaries all over the world, Pequiven is an unprecedented case. There is no expert who ventures to point out the reasons why a state company has chosen to register a company in a tax haven. But Veniran is not Pequiven's only offshore company. Laying low in the English Caribbean, the Venezuelan petrochemical industry also has other companies that have nothing to do with Iran and international sanctions imposed against their government, namely, International Petrochemical Holding Ltd, International Petrochemical Sales Ltd, and International Petrochemical Ltd.
Also in the Virgin Islands, Pequiven registered Monomeros, a Colombian subsidiary that until recently appeared on its website as "the only subsidiary in which Pequiven participates, with headquarters outside of Venezuelan territory." However, there is no one in the Venezuelan state company who can give information on the subject. Their website is down and last week there was no one to answer the phone in their offices.
Not even in person was there any way for someone to answer why a state company uses the offshore world. Its offices in Caracas remained closed last Friday due to the electricity rationing schedule implemented by the Venezuelan Government. In any case, there has been no good news about Veniran for a while. The CEO of Iranian state-owned Persian Gulf Petrochemicals Holding Co., Adel Nejad-Salim, said two years ago that the partnership with Venezuela for the construction and operation of a methanol production plant has been "partially" canceled.
In a visit to the Persian Gulf coast, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in 2007, together with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the construction of a 1.65 million metric ton per year methanol plant in the Iranian energy sector Pars, as well as another twin plant in Venezuela.
"This is the unity of the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean Sea," Chávez said before ending that trip. Things, however, did not end as clear. In declarations to Iran's Mehr agency, Nejad-Salim reported on April 28, 2014, that Venezuela granted around 60 million Euros to start the Iranian part of the operation despite the fact that eight years later there were no results. The Iranian plant said that it could be built in the port of Assaluyeh in the future, while it showed no hope about the Venezuelan plant: "Based on ongoing negotiations, the construction of the plant in Venezuela seems to be canceled".
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Gassan Salama, a Palestinian-cause activist, born in Colombia and naturalized Panamanian, frequently posts messages supporting the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions on his social media accounts. But that leaning is not the main sign to doubt his impartiality as an observer of the elections in Venezuela, a role he played in the contested elections whereby Nicolás Maduro ratified himself as president. In fact, Salama, an entrepreneur and politician who has carried out controversial searches for submarine wrecks in Caribbean waters, found his true treasure in the main social aid and control program of Chavismo, the Clap, for which he receives millions of euros.
While the key role of Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas in the import scheme of Nicolás Maduro’s Government program has come to light, almost nothing has been said about the participation of the traders who act as suppliers from Mexico. These are economic groups that, even before doing business with Venezuela, were not alien to public controversy.
Even though there are new brands, a new physical-chemical analysis requested by Armando.Info to UCV researchers shows that the milk powder currently distributed through the Venezuelan Government's food aid program, still has poor nutritional performance that jeopardizes the health of those who consume it. In the meantime, a mysterious supplier manages to monopolize the increasing imports and sales from Mexico to Venezuela.
Turkey and the coastal emirates of the Arabian Peninsula are now the homes of companies that supply the main social -and clientelist- program of the Government of Venezuela. Although the move from Mexico and Hong Kong, seems geographically epic, the companies has not changed hands. They are still owned by Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Nain Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas, who control since 2016 a good part of the Import of food financed with public funds. Around the world for a business.
Since the borders to Colombia and Brazil are packed and there is minimal access to foreign currency to reach other desirable destinations, crossing to Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most accessible routes for those in distress seeking to flee Venezuela. Relocating them is the business of the 'coyotes' who are based in the states of Sucre or Delta Amacuro, while cheating them is that of the boatmen, fishermen, smugglers and security forces that haunt them.
They lose their freedom as soon as they set foot on any Trinidadian beach, and their “original sin” is an alleged debt that these women can only pay by becoming sexual merchandise. They are tamed through a prior process of torture, rotation and terror, until they lose the urge to escape. The growth of these human trafficking networks is so evident that regional and parliamentary reports admit that the complicity of the island’s justice system in this machinery of deceit and violence multiplies the number of victims.
In front of the curtain of collapse of the major financial group in Portugal, José Trinidad Márquez, a native of Caracas, offered the stellar performance to his lifetime career of fraud. After swindling the high management of the bank, he’s taken refuge presumably in some part of Spain, where the press baptized him as “the golden middleman” or “the man with thousand faces”. With his well trained routine of a petroleum expert, who offers himself to try and arrange business connections with PDVSA, perfected over the course of more than two decades, he’s earned himself millions of dollars, as well as criminal accusations in various countries.
Nicolas Maduro’s main contractor was arrested last Friday, right after landing at the international airport of Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic, on the gates of Africa. It may be his penultimate trip, if he is finally deported or extradited to the United States, as U.S. authorities expect. It would be the worst of all endings after many years travelling and earning miles but, above all, millions of dollars thanks to opaque corporate structures, whereby he managed preferential currencies, public works, food supplies for the CLAPs, contracts with PDVSA, and even the trade of Venezuelan gold and coal since 2013.
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For some months now, parliament members of different opposition political parties have been offering to make informal proceedings on request before agencies like the Colombian Attorney General's Office and the United States Department of the Treasury. They issue letters of good conduct to those responsible for negotiations on the imports for CLAP combos, so that such agencies absolve or stop investigating entrepreneurs like Carlos Lizcano, a subordinate of the already sanctioned Alex Saab and Alvaro Pulido. The fact that the most active defense of the main social program and focus of corruption of the government of Nicolas Maduro comes from the heart of the National Assembly 'in contempt' is just one of the ironies of this story.
The former chavista governor of the State of Bolívar from 2004 to 2017 changed overnight from excessive media exhibitionism to low profile. His departure to Mexico completed the circle of the retirement plan he had been preparing while on civil service. He was now staying in the same country where the businesses of his daughter's husband flourished, which he had significantly fostered from his positions in Guayana. Now, with financial sanctions imposed on him by Canada and the United States, Francisco José Rangel Gómez prefers to stay under the radar.