Nearly 70 million of the state oil company insurance was in a limbo, which could well explain why the authorities did not collect any compensation for the explosion of the Amuay refinery.
At least 66.7 million dollars of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) insurance disappeared from the map. An unexpected turn shows that the state-owned company deposited the money precisely in the same offshore company in which Francisco Illarramendi transferred - and then lost - part of the pension fund of the oil industry workers.
The official story recalls that in 2011, this ambitious Venezuelan-American broker ended up declaring himself guilty of structuring a Ponzi scheme in which he had no way to replace some 540 million dollars that made up the savings fund of PDVSA retirees. The new leak of documents known as Paradise Papers shows that PDV Insurance Company, a subsidiary of PDVSA registered in the Bermuda Islands as its main insurance company, placed funds in the same bag, which had the same fate, they vanished.
A complex triangulation of operations, coordinated by Illarramendi, succeeded in placing shares in several financial operators, including Fractal Fund Management, to which the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States of America (SEC) froze 170 million. In that company of Venezuelan Moris Beracha, at least 66.7 million dollars of the state oil company were stranded.
As in the Panama Papers, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained a file of more than 6.8 million internal documents from the Appleby law firm - with over 700 employees in tax havens - which it shared with almost 100 media in the world through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In those papers, there was a copy of the agreements signed between Pdvsa and Fractal Fund Management.
Through PDV Insurance Company, Pdvsa handed over $ 3.5 million to Fractal Fund Management in a contract dated May 7, 2008, which is in addition to $ 63.2 million deposited on March 19, 2007 in two parts, 14 million and 49.2 million, of which there is no news.
Official Héctor Gamboa - who became Pdvsa treasurer - was responsible for the deposit of 2008, while the large slices of 2007 were under the signature of former VP of Finance Pdvsa Eudomario Carruyo. Carruyo was dismissed from the company in 2011 after the Illarramendi scandal, when he was compromised as chairman of the pension and welfare fund boards.
Two weeks before being dismissed by Hugo Chávez, Carruyo had his last public pronouncement through a letter sent to the National Assembly, where he denied that the board of the state oil company was responsible for the already infamous swindle of the Illarramendi case. At that time, he did not say a word about any investment of PDV Insurance Company, much less that the investments stayed in one of the companies blamed for participating in the fraud.
PDVSA retirees and pensioners still await answers. To date, they have not been compensated, even though the Connecticut Court in the United States of America recovered part of the money. On behalf of the Association of Retirees of the Petroleum, Petrochemical and National Carboniferous Industry (AJIP), Elena Pino anticipates that the latest changes of authorities in PDVSA have allowed conducting an audit to specify what is and what is not in their assets.
"An audit is conducted for the first time," he said this week. "Nobody has informed us if this money was reversed. We do not have any receipt and we do not know, as a board of directors, what happened to assets like those of the Ministry of Tourism, which were part of the Pension Fund assets of PDVSA workers."
Petróleos de Venezuela gives no answer either. Neither for this nor for any other report have they informed what happened with the funds saved for years by their pensioners. The silence extends over the 66.7 million dollars deposited in Fractal between 2007 and 2008, which could have easily contributed to the payment of PDV Insurance Company's fees to foreign insurers - like the English firm Cooper Bay - before the explosion in the refining complex of Amuay, which surprised the dawn of August 25, 2012 with 55 dead, 156 injured and over one billion dollars in damages.
After claiming that the accident was the result of "sabotage," PDVSA never requested the financial support of its insurers, although some experts claim that the Venezuelan state-owned company had not paid the installments of their policies and, therefore, there was no reimbursement for losses in the tragedy.
Since then, the company is not the same. Figures are eloquent. The production of Amuay fell from 620 thousand barrels per day to 370 thousand, while fuel imports have quadrupled from about 27 thousand to 108 thousand barrels per day.
There is no spokesman for Pdvsa insurance to answer for what really happened with their policies. It was not possible to find a balance neither in Caracas nor in Hamilton, the capital of the Bermuda Islands, where, paradoxically, the company that must ensure and be held liable for the assets of the most important Venezuelan State-owned company was registered.
But hidden in the files of Appleby were clues that the shares of PDV Insurance Company were frozen in the wake of the Illarramendi case and six months, and that before the explosion in Amuay, the company tried to recover by demanding Fractal Fund Management full refund.
"We exercise our right to request the redemption of all PV shares that PDVIC holds in the Fractal Fund, and we request that the corresponding payment be made by bank transfer," said official Mariela Matheus as managing director, in a letter signed on February 15, 2012.
Moris Beracha, owner of Fractal - who was an advisor to Finance Minister Rafael Isea - confirmed for this work by e-mail the receipt of this claim by PDV Insurance Company, and described it as an "improper attempt since they were clear of the situation and that the resources were frozen pending the decision on the legal process of the MK case (Michael Kenwood, name of Illarramendi’s company)."
Beracha said that he never pushed or tried to convince PDV Insurance Company to invest in his company and that, instead, that Pdvsa subsidiary "introduced" Francisco Illarramendi's company to Fractal Fund Management. What came next is uncertain. While a portion of the booty was recovered in the Connecticut Court, although how much was it or what PDVSA did with that amount remains unknown. "How or what did they do internally? I really do not know," says the entrepreneur.
Two years after the pension fund scandal, Fractal officially declared its inability to return the money. "The assets of Illarramendi remain frozen, but, as far as we know, the Receiver intends to present a distribution plan, which will determine whether Illarramendi's creditors will be compensated and to which extent and on what terms."
That was indicated on September 9, 2014, in a communication with no guarantees. "At this moment, Fractal does not know what compensation, if any, it will ultimately receive for its claim against the estate of the judicial administration. However, as it is its obligation, it will keep relevant investors like PDV Insurance informed on the judicial proceedings and any relevant distribution."
From then until now, there is no information on the destiny of these millions, which seem to have vanished into the Bermuda Islands.
Since its opening in 2017, the Porsche Design Tower quickly became a symbol of luxury and ostentation in South Florida. Magnates from all over the world retreat behind the discretion of its tinted glass windows and virtually anonymous legal entities. But in recent days, two police investigations into illegal financial flows from abroad placed the building under an inconvenient spotlight. The justice just seized an apartment of over five million dollars from a Venezuelan agent.
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.
Aside from ethical questions, the logic of a private entity opening an offshore company seems elementary —to declare its profits in a territory where it can pay less tax than it should in its place of origin. But when it comes to a state-owned company like Petróleos de Venezuela, which is not obliged to pay taxes - and therefore does not need to evade them - it is difficult to understand why within its business scheme there is contracting with companies established in tax havens and there is even the creation of their own subsidiaries in these places. What does the Venezuelan public treasury gain from this?
The member of the US Cabinet, Wilbur Ross, is one of the owners of a company that provides maritime transport services to Pdvsa, a client that in 2015 contributed over 11 percent of the profits to his shipping company. Although the official had to get rid of his mercantile properties to hold his position, he kept a participation in that line of business through a complex offshore structure in the Cayman Islands. Thus, he did not only do business with chavista Venezuela, but also with an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both countries are subject to economic sanctions by Washington.
The name of the former head of the Venezuelan oil company in Colombia appears in the papers of Mossack Fonseca with 100% of the shares of a company created in June 2011, of which she requested to be dissolved six months later. She is unemployed since August 2015, when she was replaced by the ex-sister-in-law of President Nicolás Maduro
The former Vice President of Finance and director of the state oil company was one of the executives in the industry with more charges and accusations. In 2006, the Office of the Comptroller opened a proceeding against him for not filing the sworn statement of assets. In 2011, he became noticeable for his alleged participation in the Ponzi scheme of Francisco Illaramendi. In 2009, four years after having him as a client, Mossack Fonseca learned that he was a Politically Exposed Person, but maintained the business relationship because no "links to illegal activities" were found.
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.