The judicial authorities of Switzerland found a connection between the wife and the mother-in-law of the former Venezuelan minister with at least 40 million dollars deposited in eight bank accounts, one of which was shared with one of the main negotiators of bribes and kickbacks between Odebrecht and the governments of Chávez and Maduro. Although they asked the Venezuelan justice to investigate the matter, the courts denied any possibility of addressing the case and the Venezuelan Prosecutor's Office, led by Tarek William Saab, acts as if not aware.
The former Minister of Land Transport and Public Works, Haiman El Troudi, was not even investigated. They passed him by. The Bolivarian justice has just held his family harmless, despite the fact that alarms went off last year in Switzerland, when the names of his wife and his mother-in-law appeared in a tangle of bank accounts that received suspicious business transfers from offshore companies linked to Odebrecht.
Judge Luis Argenis Marcano Sarabia —in charge of the Eleventh Court of First Instance in Regulatory Matters of Caracas— held them harmless through a ruling that ignores the investigations in Switzerland that found the Venezuelan women María Baptista and Elita Zacarías -wife and mother-in-law of the official - as holders, beneficiaries or, at least, with authorized signature in eight bank accounts that total more than 40 million dollars.
"Any measure that has been requested or executed to the detriment of Elita del Valle Zacarías Díaz and María Eugenia Baptista Zacarías, holders of identity card No. V-3.713.952 and V-13.801.638, respectively, regardless of the judicial control provided for in the Law, is void, irreversible, and consequently, must be revoked." This was resolved by the judge at year-end, on December 13, 2017, in a decision that has just been known now after he waited over three months to notify it to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The judge dismissed the case on his own initiative, without any prosecutor requesting it, even though on the 15th floor of Centro Villasmil in the Candelaria parish of Caracas, in the offices of the 55th National Prosecutor's Office, there is a file of documents sent from Switzerland, which include the names of the wife and the mother-in-law of the former minister in 8 out of 12 bank accounts that the prosecutor's office in that country links to Odebrecht and the other construction companies that were part of the bribes and commissions of the Lava Jato plot.
In addition to the accounts in the name of the wife and the mother-in-law of El Troudi, the Swiss prosecutor's office managed to document at least one case in which the money came from offshore companies that the Brazilian company used to pay bribes. "It has been possible to reconstruct a link, at least in the case of certain payments, between the aforementioned name code and the Metro Guarenas-Guatire project in Venezuela," Attorney General of Switzerland Francesca Ghilardi said in a document endorsed with an Apostille that she sent last year to Venezuela, to the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic through its embassy in Caracas. "Once the money was in the account of Alfa International SA, it was substantially transferred to accounts in the name of Elita del Valle Zacarías Díaz and María Eugenia Baptista Zacarías in Switzerland and abroad."
If it is already difficult for a Venezuelan official to justify tens of millions in times of exchange control, in the city of Lugano the authorities warned of a transfer of 16.3 million Swiss francs from Cresswell Overseas Ltd - one of the proven facades of Odebrecht- to bank accounts of the relatives of El Troudi, with a scale in account number 0251-1499613 that Credit Suisse says is in the name of a firm called Alfa International SA, which also includes the wife and the mother-in-law of El Troudi, together with three other Venezuelans, Alejandra Urdaneta Tovar, Jorge Lander and no more and no less than Luis Enrique Delgado Contreras himself. This name came up in the trials of Brazil on the Lava Jato plot, as one of the commission agents who managed bribes and kickbacks in the Caracas Metro.
Delgado was a kind of Trojan horse that Odebrecht found in Caracas to streamline payments within the Venezuelan government and even to leak information and documents that would later work in its benefit. Not in vain, between 2011 and 2015, he received and channeled 100 million dollars in commissions, according to the testimony of the Superintendent Director that the construction company had in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, who currently maintains a low profile in the city of Sao Paulo after becoming the key witness of the Odebrecht plot in Venezuela.
"On several occasions, Luis Delgado brought us draft copies of confidential documents (approval of resources for works, contractual additives, internal studies, evaluations on price adjustments due to inflation) of these clients, giving us the opportunity to change," said Azevedo in Brazil to the prosecutors of the case in December 2016, in exchange for procedural benefits.
In 2012, Odebrecht even forged through Delgado an Action Memorandum sent to President Hugo Chávez, to multiply the amounts agreed upon in the initial budget. "I remember that in 2012, we worked together with Luis Delgado on a document approving resources for works (called "Action Memorandum "), entitled Menu of Strategic Decisions, containing all the necessary works to be done in the framework of the works of Metro de Caracas and Metro de Los Teques companies and worked as a general authorization of the President of the Republic for these clients to sign contractual additives with the Company for a value equal to US $ 12 billion," revealed Azevedo. "This document, although technically speaking, it should have been an internal document prepared by the Ministry of Transport, was a document that the company had the possibility to change practically in its entirety and that was approved exactly as requested to Luis Delgado."
None of these facts has been investigated in Venezuela. If the case of the relatives of El Troudi did not go beyond a regulatory court, the public prosecutor general appointed by the Constituent, Tarek William Saab, has not even referred to that matter.
In addition to being Minister of Land Transport and President of Metro de Caracas and Los Teques, El Troudi has passed by the Chavista administration as Minister of Planning and Development, representative of the government before multilateral organizations like the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and, specially, as director of President Chávez's office.
He led a series of alterations to El Valle-Coche highway in Caracas, which generated criticism and rejection after causing the overflow of the Guaire River. In his Twitter account, he still presents himself as a deputy for the state of Miranda, although he has not even been seen in the Assembly. Today, one can hear more about him in Switzerland than for the investigations by the Public Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutors of that country emphasize that his wife -the same who transfers dollars abroad- "was for a certain period the director of Metro de Caracas."
Not in vain, Saab was already elusive with Odebrecht when he was at the head of the Prosecutor’s Office. "We will not work based on speculations," he replied in last year’s September when asked about the testimonies and evidence from Brazil that involved president Nicolás Maduro. "It is absurd", "immoral" and "null," he added last month when the magistrates of the so-called Supreme Court of Justice in exile approved a preliminary judgment to prosecute Maduro for his role in the Odebrecht plot.
Saab neither responded to a question sent by Armando.info through his press officer about the reasons for the dismissal of the case opened against the relatives of El Troudi.
As if it were the plague, Chavism seldom refers to the matter, even though Odebrecht did not even finish more than half of its works in Venezuela. Former Minister Haiman El Troudi barely claimed that it was "a dirty trick" when prosecutor Pedro Lopera summoned his wife and mother-in-law as accused in last year’s July, after receiving evidence from Switzerland.
But the Bolivarian justice soon released El Troudi from all responsibility or suspicion while prosecutor Lopera is paying today that indiscreet summons with the exile, after having been accused of corruption by Diosdado Cabello in his program “Con el mazo dando”.
Beyond the names of political figures and Government officials involved, the corruption plot deployed by the Brazilian construction company in Venezuela brought huge amounts of money in irregular payments into circulation. In Swiss banks, the transit of at least 235 million dollars was detected, mostly bribes linked to the Tocoma hydroelectric project, which after feeding the accounts of intermediaries reached their destination. For now, investigations determine that the capillarity through which the funds flowed led to art merchants, patriarchs of civil engineering dynasties, and even sports managers.
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.
Kept under lock and key in Brazil since late 2016, the videos of the Odebrecht trial on Venezuela finally appear. As of today, Armando.info begins to publish a string of clips that show the faces of the witnesses who documented the case. Some of their statements had already been published on this platform, but here they go with the voice and tone of their protagonists.
Neither the revolutionary commander of Venezuela, nor the charismatic president Lula of Brazil, but the senior staff of the construction company turned into the Major Elector when the Brazilian Senate had to vote on the incorporation of Caracas into the trading bloc. Based on the transcripts of the Lava Jato case, Marcelo Odebrecht personally led the lobbying campaign aimed to break the three-year blockage that prevented the entry of the Chavista regime into the club. The operation included the recruitment of three key Senators from the Workers' Party, as allies.
The Venezuelan government has resorted to a myriad of trading intermediaries to provide imported merchandise for the Claps, its star food aid program. With massive purchases in international markets, it poorly satisfies the hunger of popular sectors while safely feeding the financial flows that end in bank accounts in Hong Kong or Switzerland.
As if they were pieces of a broken mirror scattered in many islands around the world, several offshore companies form an oil-trading business network that reveals the trajectory of Alessandro Bazzoni and Francisco D'Agostino. Both of them, together with the Venezuelan telecommunications magnate Oswaldo Cisneros, landed in 2016 in the Orinoco Belt to fill the vacancy of the original partner, Harvest Natural Resources.
When Vice President Delcy Rodríguez turned to a group of Mexican friends and partners to lessen the new electricity emergency in Venezuela, she laid the foundation stone of a shortcut through which Chavismo and its commercial allies have dodged the sanctions imposed by Washington on PDVSA’s exports of crude oil. Since then, with Alex Saab, Joaquín Leal and Alessandro Bazzoni as key figures, the circuit has spread to some thirty countries to trade other Venezuelan commodities. This is part of the revelations of this joint investigative series between the newspaper El País and Armando.info, developed from a leak of thousands of documents.
Leaked documents on Libre Abordo and the rest of the shady network that Joaquín Leal managed from Mexico, with tentacles reaching 30 countries, ―aimed to trade PDVSA crude oil and other raw materials that the Caracas regime needed to place in international markets in spite of the sanctions― show that the businessman claimed to have the approval of the Mexican government and supplies from Segalmex, an official entity. Beyond this smoking gun, there is evidence that Leal had privileged access to the vice foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maximiliano Reyes.
The business structure that Alex Saab had registered in Turkey—revealed in 2018 in an article by Armando.info—was merely a false start for his plans to export Venezuelan coal. Almost simultaneously, the Colombian merchant made contact with his Mexican counterpart, Joaquín Leal, to plot a network that would not only market crude oil from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, as part of a maneuver to bypass the sanctions imposed by Washington, but would also take charge of a scheme to export coal from the mines of Zulia, in western Venezuela. The dirty play allowed that thousands of tons, valued in millions of dollars, ended up in ports in Mexico and Central America.
As part of their business network based in Mexico, with one foot in Dubai, the two traders devised a way to replace the operation of the large international credit card franchises if they were to abandon the Venezuelan market because of Washington’s sanctions. The developed electronic payment system, “Paquete Alcance,” aimed to get hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances sent by expatriates and use them to finance purchases at CLAP stores.
Scions of different lineages of tycoons in Venezuela, Francisco D’Agostino and Eduardo Cisneros are non-blood relatives. They were also partners for a short time in Elemento Oil & Gas Ltd, a Malta-based company, over which the young Cisneros eventually took full ownership. Elemento was a protagonist in the secret network of Venezuelan crude oil marketing that Joaquín Leal activated from Mexico. However, when it came to imposing sanctions, Washington penalized D’Agostino only… Why?
Through a company registered in Mexico – Consorcio Panamericano de Exportación – with no known trajectory or experience, Joaquín Leal made a daring proposal to the Venezuelan Guyana Corporation to “reactivate” the aluminum industry, paralyzed after March 2019 blackout. The business proposed to pay the power supply of state-owned companies in exchange for payment-in-kind with the metal.