Sarah Moya, the PDVSA Executive who Moves in Overseas Territories

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

8 May 2016

In April 2011, the then manager of Pdvsa Gas Colombia, Sarah Moya, received a power-of-lawyer to manage a company registered by Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands. The documents revealed do not indicate the use given to that company, but according to the Spanish newspaper ABC, Moya is involved in an investigation by the Andorran authorities for money laundering from contracts of the Venezuelan oil company, and it would have as launch point the same Caribbean tax haven where the above company was registered.

Six months after the registration of company Helmont Finance Corporation, on December 16, 2011, the Panamanian law firm received two emails requesting the dissolution of the company, one from the account of the representative of the state oil company. Moya ratified the request to dissolve the company with a letter of January 10, 2012. "Please process this instruction at your earliest convenience and confirm your execution by email to Pablo Escudero as soon as it is processed," it is read before the signature of the former senior officer of Pdvsa Gas Colombia.

Helmont Finance Corporation was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on June 23, 2011. Since the beginning of the procedure, Moya was represented by Colombian lawyer Natalia Mulford, who was then working in Panama for company Family Council Wealth Consulting Planning (FCWCP), founded in Bogota by the expert in company advising on succession matters, Raúl Serebrenik.

The Panamanian Efforts

"I have my client's instructions to incorporate a company in the British Virgin Islands. I have the format for the new structures ready, but before sending it, I wanted to confirm that I do not have to send more documents... My partner, Raúl Serebrenik, through FCWPC Colombia, is registered with you as a referrer. Do I need to complete the documents again or is it enough with what he completed? (sic)... I look forward to your comments," wrote the lawyer.

Email from Moya's lawyer to Mossack Fonseca

Mulford then requested the incorporation of company Helmont Finance Corporation in the British Virgin Islands. Five days later, on June 22, the Panamanian law firm answered that all the paperwork had already been completed. The next day, the company was incorporated.

They used a Panamanian woman who lent her name, Connie Hidalgo, who acted as director, unlike other cases, where the figureheads were Mossack Fonseca workers. Lawyer Mulford gave the law firm a passport and other information from the director to facilitate the process.

Hidalgo transferred the 50 thousand shares of the company, according to the registration made, to Sarah Moya, at which time she receives the ownership of this offshore company. In addition, "the original documents of the company will be maintained," Mulford then clarified, in an address in Caracas that this journalistic investigation later identified as the apartment of a relative very close to the former PDVSA manager in Colombia.

At the time of the registration of the company by Mossack Fonseca, Moya was in Bogota. As in the cases of PDVSA former auditor Jesús Villanueva, and former Vice President of Finance Eudomario Carruyo, the Compliance Department of Mossack Fonseca checked Moya and activated an early warning because she was a Politically Exposed Person. In 2005, she was the Head of the International Affairs Department of the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, when Rafael Ramírez was already in charge. Curiously, the investigation of the law firm did not reveal that at that time, she was the manager of Pdvsa Gas Colombia. That is why from June to December 2011, she managed the shell company without any inconveniences.

That normality was maintained until December 16 of that year. That day, the employees of Mossack Fonseca first read the message sent by a man named Pablo Escudero, who wrote from the email of financial company EFG Capital, based in Brickell, Miami. A few hours later, Moya ratified the request from the wanadoo.fr email platform. This investigation identified the former manager as the owner thereof: "Good afternoon. This is to confirm the request for dissolution as soon as possible." It was Sarah Moya's address. The next day, the Panamanian law firm contacted Mulford, as the representative recognized by them, and bound itself to process everything necessary to fulfill the request of the shareholder.

Moya's email confirming her request

In March 2012, the liquidation process of Helmont Finance Corporation was completed, but Mulford requested in parallel services from Mossack Fonseca to register a company in two US regions, Florida and Delaware, which is considered a tax haven. Mulford later reported that the client, without mentioning first and last name, preferred to stay in the British Virgin Islands.

The information on the transaction and dissolution of Helmont Finance is known due to a leak of emails and other files of Mossack Fonseca - a law firm founded in Panama for legal and financial advice in tax havens -, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Trusted Staff

Moya is an internationalist graduated from Universidad Central de Venezuela, with higher education at the Sorbonne in Paris, and work experience in the country and abroad. Her professional career links her to Rafael Ramírez, former president of PDVSA, former Minister of Energy and Petroleum and today ambassador to the UN. The biographical evidence places her very close to Diego Salazar, the insurance broker and cousin of Ramírez, linked to the case of money laundering at Banco Privado de Andorra.

Diego Salazar Luongo and Quintín Moya, parents of the insurance broker and the former Pdvsa manager, respectively, participated in the 60’s guerrilla, and even shared a cell and escaped in the San Carlos barracks, in Caracas, together with other leaders of the then left, like Teodoro Petkoff.

Even one of Moya's aunts is currently married to Rafael Salazar, who was the Human Resources manager of Pdvsa in the administration of his cousin Rafael Ramírez. This Salazar is also Diego's cousin.

At the beginning of the first decade of this century, Moya met in London Bernard Mommer, who was adviser to Ramírez and President Hugo Chávez, and also an Oxford professor. The oil expert invited her to continue her studies in England.

The former manager of PDVSA has been linked to the insurance broker, Diego Salazar, who is also a cousin of former minister Rafael Ramírez

In her résumé, she affirms that from 2001 to 2002, she worked as technical assistant to the vice minister of Hydrocarbons in Venezuela. In January 2005, she came to Caracas with Mommer -recently appointed vice minister of Hydrocarbons - to assumed the position of head of the International Affairs Department of the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, which she held for less than 10 months. She was then sent to London again, to the headquarters of PDV UK. She stayed in London for one more year only, because the parent company closed the office in that city. Since she was unemployed, she went to Colombia, where Pdvsa began negotiations to open an office. Rafael Ramírez appointed her as manager of Pdvsa Gas Colombia, in charge of the construction and administration of the Antonio Ricaurte binational gas pipeline.

The Wake of Bitterness

Asking about Moya to her former co-workers is equal to finding traces of bitter disputes, arguments, recriminations and accusations. It happened to her in Caracas, where she had differences with La Campiña employees; in London, a former colleague prefers not to speak about her, although the little she says is not kind; and in Colombia, a country where she had confrontation not only with her supervisors, but also with representatives of Wayúu communities, through which the gas pipeline passes.

The Siente América website has a file of complaints from former employees of Pdvsa Gas Colombia and representatives of the Wayúu, which has published in several issues, documents provided for this report.

Based on the information provided by the digital media, the representative of the La Ciénaga oversight office, José Morales, would be one of those who filed a complaint with the Colombian Prosecutor's Office. He says in the communication without an specific date that "after the relevant follow-up by this oversight office, we found multiple inconsistencies in the expenses of PDVSA in Colombia; and it even seems that the shortages generated on the one hand, in the case of monies that do not go to WAYUU communities, swelled the personal and private economic assets of manager MOYA MACHADO."

In October 2009, a group of indigenous people complained to the official of the Venezuelan oil company for the breach of a deed of commitment signed in 2008. "The people in PDVSA are mocking us and National Government officials allow them to do it," said the Wayúu leaders who took the facilities of the Ombudsman's Office in the Colombian Guajira for 10 days.

In the workplace, former employee Yaneth Anaya Estévez, dismissed in 2009 from her job, told in a letter sent to authorities of the Venezuelan oil industry that she was fired because she requested a permit to undergo medical examinations. She states in the letter that Moya made them work 12-14 hours on average, verbally mistreated them, lacked knowledge for the position she held and made continuous layoffs on a whim. The former official did not want to talk much about her former boss. "I know that that woman managed the office as if it were her home and there were irregular money movements," said Anaya Estévez. She pointed out by email that she did not receive any response from the executives of the Venezuelan state oil company.

Certificate of Sarah Moya’s company, manager of the PDVSA office in Colombia

Money Laundering in Andorra

All these complaints, according to Siente América digital portal, were presented to the authorities of Venezuela and Colombia. The medium also refers to another case beyond the Colombian-Venezuelan borders. It is about the laundering of money from Pdvsa in Banco Privado de Andorra.

The former manager of Pdvsa Gas Colombia is next to the names of other senior officials of the state oil company, as the only woman investigated for money laundering in Banco Privado de Andorra, where, according to official information, over 1,400 million euros of deposits of industry leaders were admitted.

In May 2015, according to the story published by the Spanish newspaper ABC, the judicial authorities of the Principality of Andorra sent two rogatory letters to USA and Venezuela to request banking information about senior PDVSA officials.

The document sent by Andorra and partially reproduced by the newspaper describes the origin and the way in which the officials were could carry out the laundry operation. "From 2006 until late 2012, financial transactions have been detected between individuals and legal entities that are related for the investigations. As a common denominator - the document adds -, the participating individuals are native of Venezuela and the companies used to transfer the funds from abroad to the Principality of Andorra or vice versa are mostly from Panama, Belize or the British Virgin Islands... The money circulating internationally - the rogatory commission specifies - would have a criminal origin due to political corruption and/or would come from officials of the Venezuelan State», and adds that a good part of the funds would also come from overvalued insurance contracts whose holders would be Venezuelan public companies.”

Replaced by Ex Sister-in-Law

To compare the information for this report, the former manager of Pdvsa Gas Colombia was contacted through the email address she used to request the liquidation of the company on December 16, 2011. Two days after, she responded and an agreed to have an interview via Skype. However, she refused for the content of a one hour and 20 minute conversation to be used when this report was in the final stage. Security reasons were stronger than her will to clarify what she claims to be a smear campaign.

Only one of the other three persons involved in this case answered. Serebrenik responded to the request for information through a message on LinkedIn. "...I am totally unaware of what you are talking about. I suggest you to contact lawyer Natalia Mulford. I do not know Sara Moya (sic)," he said in 24 words. After insisting through a new message, the adviser said, "We are a company advising firm of family companies and boards of directors only. I never heard the name Moya."

By the time Serebreik suggested addressing the "lawyer," Mulford had already been sent three emails to her office in Panama, without obtaining information on the reasons of her actions in this case. Finally, an unsuccessful attempt was made to contact Escudero through his former co-workers at EFG Capital. That is why you can only know the stories told in the Panama papers.

Moya is out of PDVSA since August 2015, after being replaced in the management of the Bogota office by Laura Guerra Angulo, sister of the ex-wife of President Nicolás Maduro, and aunt of the only known son of the national president. She is currently unemployed and does not want to return to Venezuela.

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