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.
Considered the key witness in the Lava Jato case in Venezuela, Odebrecht managing director in Caracas, Euzenando Azevedo, collaborated with the Brazilian justice in exchange for procedural benefits. He gave his testimony in the courts of the State of Sergipe, northeast of Brazil, to avoid ending up in jail.
It was on December 16, 2016. Although a good portion of his words had already been quoted on this platform, the videos were kept in Brazil's courts for a year and a half. But the secret has just been broken and today, it is possible to meet them in an effort of the Network of Structured Journalists, which joins together journalists of IDL in Peru, La Nacion of Argentina, La Prensa of Panama, Sudestada in Uruguay, and Quinto Elemento Lab in Mexico.
Odebrecht’s bribes also reached Pdvsa Agrícola, and among the beneficiaries, Egly Ramírez, founder of Pdval and uncle of former president of PDVSA Rafael Ramírez, stands out. Marcio Faria, one of the senior managers of the Brazilian construction company, confessed that on December 14, in an interrogation t in the courts of the State of Paraiba, northeast of Brazil.
According to the testimony of Faría, the subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela commissioned ethanol plants, which –as already informed on this platform– apart from bribes and commissions, they did not even completed them.
The works were half completed in the states of Barinas, Cojedes, Portuguesa and Trujillo. That is not the case of the disbursements to a Brazilian intermediary called Osvaldo Basteri, who then distributed them to the entire board of directors of Pdvsa Agrícola. "The payments to that man were made through these companies, for which they used fictitious service provision contracts between us and Osvaldo's companies," he said. "The payments were made through Hilberto Silva [head of the Structured Operations Sector]. I learned that the amount of the bribe was around 6% on the amounts received, not the ??contracted amounts.
Odebrecht managing director in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, pointed to an intermediary as a key player in the framework of Venezuelan corruption. His name was Luis Delgado and coincides with his number two, Alessandro Dias Gomes, at the time of pointing him out as an intermediary that allowed him to forge documents of the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. "I can say that he was efficient because we had access. We have privileged access to drafts of action memoranda, and we were able to influence and even change the wording."
Although Azevedo had a direct line with Chávez, the doors of the government were closed when the president became ill. It was then that the intermediary appeared. "He contacted me and said, ‘I know that you are having difficulties with the Metro works. I have free access and can help you have the invoices pending released."
With Hugo Chavez ill, the Brazilians lost contact with the National Government. Several accounts were paid late to representatives of the company, until they found an intermediary who processed the payments in exchange for 2% of the amount of the invoices.
"They had not received the invoices for the Metro works for six months; hence, there was a large list of overdue invoices. I agreed with him that he would receive two percent of each invoice that he help us collect," confessed another manager of the company in Caracas, Alessandro Días Gómes, in an interrogation in the Brazilian courts of Sergipe, where the justice of that country summoned the witnesses of the Venezuelan case.
His testimony shows that in addition to overpricing and political favors, Odebrecht's machinery included commissions to intermediaries and lobbyists to expedite their payments.
Odebrecht managed to obtain the drafts of more than one Action Memorandum before they were sent to former President Hugo Chávez, to adjust quotations and change amounts to its benefit.
They did it through an official named Luis Delgado, whom Switzerland linked with over $ 40 million that ended up in accounts of the wife and the mother-in-law of former Minister of Land Transport and former Metro president Haiman El Troudi, according to another investigation published on this same platform.
"Sometimes, he gave the drafts of the Action Memoranda," said the company's manager, Alessandro Dias Gomes, who first took charge of the works of Metro de Caracas and then inherited the position of managing director in Venezuela, which Euzenando Azevedo held for almost 10 years. "He gave me the drafts of the documents. That allowed me to have influence over them by indicating that we needed more resources in certain A or B work."
Luis Delgado was a kind of Trojan horse that Odebrecht found in Caracas to speed up payments within the Venezuelan Government and even to leak information and documents that would later worked for the benefit of the company. No wonder, between 2011 and 2015, he received and channeled 100 million dollars in commissions deposited in an account of the Meinl Bank of Antigua and Barbuda.
"He received a total of around 100 million dollars over those four years," said director Alessandro Dias Gomes. But that total was far from being for him. It was distributed. "When payments were late, he said, "Press to have my payments because that is not for me, I have a group of people waiting, and if they get upset, it will adversely affect your interests."
In Venezuela, Odebrecht was lucky to have direct access to former President Hugo Chávez. No wonder, only in the Bolivarian Republic, an agent has the power to dispose of oil surpluses without having to wait for the approval of the Legislative.
This was stated by the so-called viceroy of Odebrecht in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, who —among the other 78 "rewarded informers", who decided to collaborate with justice— has become the key witness of the Venezuelan plot. "These large works were paid or are managed through parafiscal funds that exist in Venezuela in a different way than other countries," he said. "In Venezuela, there are parafiscal funds that are administered directly by the President of the Republic, and it is through these funds that the central government allocates resources for investment in works."
The more than 30 works that Chavismo assigned to Odebrecht total 20 billion dollars, many of which were not even concluded in the Venezuelan case.
Furthermore, most were arbitrarily assigned. "Tendered at about 7 billion dollars and directly contracted at about 13 billion dollars." This was said by the representative of the company, Euzenando Azevedo, during his interrogation in December 2016 before the Brazilian justice, in exchange for procedural benefits.
The first bid that the Brazilians won was to build Line 4 of the Metro de Caracas, then the extension of Line 3 and the Metro de Los Teques, but from there, they were directly awarded the most emblematic works of the Government. "President Chávez hired us directly to make the second bridge over the Orinoco River. He hired us later, when we finished the second bridge, to make the third bridge. He hired us to build the Nigale bridge and then for some cable cars."
The so-called viceroy of Odebrecht in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, went to the Hotel Nacional de Brasilia for Hugo Chávez, on his first visit as president-elect, to back down the contracts previously awarded to a Spanish consortium to build Line 4 of Metro of Caracas. "I undertake to ask President Caldera, as soon as arrive in Venezuela, to at least suspend the contracting process for me to contract," the president promised.
That was the first great success of Azevedo who gradually gained free access to the Miraflores Palace. He arrived in Caracas in 1994 and since then managed that Odebrecht moved from building the Lago Mall de Maracaibo to becoming the number one contractor of the Bolivarian revolution.
No wonder his position as managing director did not have a superior. The jurisdiction of Odebrecht Vice President for Latin America and Africa, Luiz Mamery, ran from Angola and Mozambique, to Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. But Venezuela was a different matter, where Azevedo was in charge of Chávez.
Odebrecht collaborated on two occasions with the ex-governor of the State of Bolívar, Francisco Rangel Gómez. "I collaborated twice," Azevedo told the Brazilian justice. "He always undertook to ask to prioritize the development of our works whenever he had high-level meetings with the Government."
The same happened with several mayors of the State of Miranda, as it is the region where the Metro Caracas-Guarenas-Guatire is still promised. In his testimony, the "viceroy" of Odebrecht mentioned contributions to the campaigns of former mayor of Los Teques, Francisco Garcés, and of his counterpart in the Sucre municipality, the opponent Carlos Ocariz, as well as of the mayor Farith Fraija, who won the Mayor's Office of Carrizal last year after being defeated in the previous period despite of the economic support of the Brazilians.
Even when there were no presidential elections, Odebrecht spent 3 million dollars to support regional campaigns in Venezuela, and among them stands out the number two of Chavez, Diosdado Cabello. "We helped, for example, in Los Teques municipality, the candidate for governor, Diosdado Cabello," confirmed Azevedo.
Opposition leaders also stand out, like the former governors of the State of Zulia, Manuel Rosales and Pablo Pérez, and the former metropolitan mayor, Antonio Ledezma, now in exile. On the other side, Chavismo financed the former mayor of Maracaibo Gian Carlo Di Martino, the former governor of Bolívar, Francisco Rangel Gómez, and the current Minister of Education, Elías Jaua.
There is a particular reference to the former leader of the Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Era) party, William Ojeda, who was given money so that he would focus his efforts on the newspaper Últimas Noticias. "We helped a journalist who was always a candidate, William Ojeda, who had a very important column in the most important newspaper in Venezuela. What for? To help him so that he did not attack us in the newspaper ".
Odebrecht collaborated 17 million dollars for the presidential campaigns of the opposition led by former governor of the State of Miranda, Henrique Capriles. In 2012, Odebrecht gave the first 2 million dollars and in April of the following year, it contributed another 15 million.
The approach began –as it had been leaked in July 2017 on this platform– thanks to a subcontractor from Odebrecht, close to Capriles, called Benito Rodríguez. The first encounters took place at his home. There, the Brazilians only asked not to terminate the contracts signed in the time of Hugo Chávez.
"I told him that I needed him to introduce me to the candidate," said the company's managing director, Euzenando Azevendo, in his testimony before the Brazilian justice. "After a week or a week and a half, he called me and I went to his home again, and the candidate was there."
Odebrecht’s representative in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, met three times with former governor Henrique Capriles, according to the testimony he gave to Brazilian prosecutors in the courts of the northeastern state of Sergipe.
He never talked about money with Capriles, but after meeting him, he agreed with his representative, Benito Rodríguez, to make a first contribution in the 2012 campaign. "I agreed to give a contribution of 2 million dollars divided into several parts."
The second meeting, according to Azevedo, was in a room of the Pestana Hotel in Caracas, to prevent Chavism from knowing that the Brazilians were beginning to collaborate with the opposition. "I arrived a little earlier, two hours before. I went to the apartment, then they arrived and there he ratified his commitment that if he won, he would not take reprisals."
The most exciting encounter between Azevedo and Capriles was in the apartment of the former governor of Miranda. That was stated in Brazil by the Odebrecht officer before the prosecutors in the case. "Very close to the election, a week, he called me and invited me to his home," he said. "I received a call from one of his advisers saying, ‘Governor Henrique Capriles wants to talk to you at his home and he set an hour, at night’."
Odebrecht had already deposited 15 million for the 2013 campaign in bank accounts abroad, according to the guidelines provided by the then representative of Capriles, Benito Rodríguez. As a gesture of gratitude, the candidate invited Azevedo to his home. "In a very affectionate way, he thanked me for everything I had done and emphasized that if he won, he would not take any attitude against our contracts," he said. "It is an honor to have received this from the President of the Republic," he added after Capriles himself brought him a glass of water.
Sitting on the defendants' bench, Odebrecht's key witness in Venezuela, its managing director in the country, Euzenando Azevedo, narrated in December 2016 the details of how the Brazilian construction giant financed the first electoral campaign of Nicolás Maduro.
Then he told the story of how he processed 35 million dollars for an emissary of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. But, in the meantime, he formalized in a Brazilian court what some already murmured in Venezuela, "Chávez died in Cuba."
"Shortly before, he felt he was going to die," he told the prosecutors in the city of Bahia. "He appointed on national radio and television the then Vice President of the Republic as his substitute in the event something happened to him on his last trip to Cuba, from which he did not return."
It was in Caracas, at Café Gourmet in Las Mercedes, where Euzenando Azevedo, the former officer of Odebrecht in Venezuela, closed the deal with the Venezuelan government official, Américo Mata, a key element in the Chavista framework, who climb steps to the side of the Minister of Education, Elías Jaua, and three months ago left the anonymity when the United States of America included him in the sanctions list of the Department of the Treasury.
There, in that café, –as already leaked in July 2017 on this platform– the company representative agreed to pay the 35 million dollars in exchange for a guaranteed continuity of their works. "I had to contribute to keep the contracts." Otherwise, it was uphill, he responded to the Brazilian prosecutors who interrogated him about the financing of Maduro's first electoral campaign in the courts of the Brazilian state of Sergipe.
The transfers to Nicolás’ campaign were made to companies registered abroad. The emissary of the Venezuelan president gave the guidelines and Odebrecht immediately activated its so-called Department of Structured Operations, a euphemism that the Brazilian company used to avoid presenting it as its unit of bribes and commissions.
Maduro's emissary, Américo Mata - later named "protector of the State of Miranda " - gave the names of the companies and the rest of the work corresponded to the Brazilians.”Systematically, he gave instructions and we made the transfers," summarized Azevedo.
He did not specify, however, the names or information of the companies. Unlike witnesses from other countries, in the case of Venezuela, there were few witnesses in the interrogations and Azevedo, the main one, said he did not have details about most of the companies and bank transfers...
(*)This is a work researched and published by the Structured Journalistic Research Network, which includes journalists from IDL-Reporters in Peru, La Prensa of Panama, La Nación of Argentina, Sudestada in Uruguay, Fifth Element Lab in Mexico, and Armando.info in Venezuela.
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.
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 tension between the governments of Nicolás Maduro and Juan Carlos Varela is nonstop. But the surge of trade retaliations from both capitals peculiarly leaves some of the companies that since 2017 provide merchandise to Chávez’s flagship program (the Local Supply and Production Committees - Clap) unharmed. Two of these companies show the profile of opportunistic shell companies.
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.
More than 550 million U.S. dollars went through the cliff in some Pdvsa Agrícola (PDVSA Agriculture) facilities, which were partly built in four provinces of Venezuela. A new file of judicial documents and bank deposits of the Lava Jato operation -leaked for this report- involve Egly Ramírez (uncle of the former president of the state oil company and current ambassador of Venezuela to the United Nations, Rafael Ramírez) and other former officials in the biggest corruption scandal of recent years that established a systematic payment of bribes to people with responsibilities in the governments of Latin America, so that the Brazilian multinational could win the tenders.
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.