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Alek Boyd



"He who surrenders his intellect to that of other, for the sake of an ideology, creed or belief, commits the supreme act of denying its own self."



Updated: 2016-11-29T16:49:14.975+00:00

 



Entrevista a Armando Valladares sobre muerte de Fidel Castro

2016-11-29T16:49:14.984+00:00

Emb. Armando ValladaresLa muerte del tirano Fidel Castro ha producido una avalancha de apologías a nivel mundial. Desde el primer ministro de India hasta el de Canada, todos los idiotas útiles del planeta se han pronunciado, sin rubor alguno, sobre las inexistentes bondades de la dictadura castrista. Por ello pensé apropiado entrevistar a alguien que si tuvo que sufrir la dizque "liberación" que los barbudos impusieron por la fuerza en Cuba. Armando Valladares, escritor, poeta, y prisionero de conciencia por 22 años, es aparte de cubano, víctima del castrismo. Quién mejor, para explicar la realidad cubana? Armando es además, quizás la única persona en el mundo que se puede dar el lujo de afirmar que sus acciones como embajador de los EEUU ante la Comisión de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas derrotaron la propaganda y diplomacia castrista en marzo de 1988, lo cual forzó a Cuba a abrir las puertas a observadores internacionales, algo que Fidel nunca habría permitido. Dicha acción puso a Cuba, por primera vez, en la categoría correspondiente a regímenes con graves violaciones a los derechos humanos.- Pregunta: "Si Fidel es comunista, que me pongan en la lista”. De dónde salió ese eslogan, considerando las afirmaciones del propio Castro a Erik Durschmied en Sierra Maestra negando que era comunista / marxista?Respuesta: Ese slogan fue una campana del Partido Comunista preparando al pueblo para cuando Fidel Castro admitiera que era comunista, no tuviera mucho rechazo. Decían si lo que esta haciendo Fidel Castro -dando tierras (no en propiedad) a los campesinos, rebajando los alquileres etc-, si eso era ser comunista, pues también somos comunistas.- Puedes narrar la causa de tu arresto y encarcelamiento por 22 años?Respuesta: Yo era funcionario del gobierno revolucionario. Un día milicianos armados fueron por todos los departamentos del Ministerio de Comunicaciones colocando en los escritorios un slogan que decía: "si Fidel es comunista, que me pongan en la lista, que estoy de acuerdo con él”. Yo me negué. Los milicianos me preguntaron: "Tu no estás de acuerdo con Fidel…?- Si es comunista NO"- fue mi respuesta. Eso fue suficiente para señalarme como un desafecto a la Revolución, como un contrarrevolucionario. Semanas después me arrestaron en mi casa. Registraron todo y no encontraron armas, ni explosivos, ni propaganda, NADA QUE PUDIERA comprometerme como un conspirador. El oficial de la Policía Política que me interrogo, me dijo: "Mira, no hemos encontrado nada, nadie te acusa, pero tenemos la convicción moral de que eres un enemigo potencial de la Revolución, y por eso te vamos a condenar." En un juicio revolucionario integrado por campesinos, sin abogado defensor, en menos de una semana desde el arresto, fui condenado a 30 años de trabajos forzados y 30 de interdicción política. Mi caso no es excepcional, miles hubo condenados de esa misma forma. Recuerda que los juicios en épocas de Stalin eran así, solo por pensar u opinar los mandaban a Siberia. En Cuba fue exactamente igual.- Tu libro “Contra toda esperanza” se convirtió en uno de los libros mas importantes de la literatura sobre prisioneros de conciencia a nivel mundial. Qué opinión te merecen quienes celebran a Castro como liberador del pueblo cubano?Respuesta: Los que apoyan y justifican los crímenes de los tiranos, pasarán a la historia como cómplices  de esos crímenes. Los carniceros de sus pueblos siempre han tenido seguidores y simpatizantes. Los tuvo y tiene Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot y Ieng Sari de Cambodia, y los tiene Fidel Castro. Uno de ellos es el canadiense Justine Trudeau, que Cuba lo tiene comprometido por filmaciones intimas de sus frecuentes viajes a Cuba. Un día, y todo llega, esas filmaciones se harán públicas, sera un Wikileak escandaloso, especialmente para los familiares de esos “amigos” de la revolución cubana. Todo llega... Todo se sabe.- Fue tu encarcelamiento un caso aislado, o ejemplo de persecución sistemática contra todos aquellos que la dictadura castri[...]



Fanaticism

2016-11-11T18:34:11.000+00:00

Remember this? It wasn't that long ago, was it? Lessons haven't been learned. If anything, the will of the people has been redefined, by almost all media, in most countries, as a retrograde manifestation that ought to be repudiated at every available opportunity.But who are the creators of the new dogma? Who are the new oracles, seers, and high priests of post modern morality? Do their knowledge spring from sacred scriptures? From where do these prophets derive their wisdom? What makes their capacity to interpret reality so unique, that only their anointed peers can see it?We live in an era of fanaticism, of nihilistic delusion. The motto "après moi le déluge" has lost its reflexive connotation, and has morphed into a collective utopia that inhabits the minds and thoughts of educated elites up and down this world. The shared creed is not to be questioned, and crucially not challenged. Democracy no longer fits the purpose. Consensus? Only to pledge absolute loyalty to the "new" normal. Any deviation from the grand diktats of the PC establishment is to be derided, mocked, ridiculed, and exposed as epitomes of racism, misogyny, ignorance, insularity and brutality across all social, political, religious, academic and media channels under their control. A singular unity and conformity characterises the narrative of this collectivity, as in the most fanatic of sects.Interpretations and discourse aren't derived from observation. Consultation does not inform argumentation. Fanatics feed their worldview solely and exclusively from other cabal members. No outside perspective is allowed to pollute considerations. The "new" reality is a construct, wherein poverty, unemployment, and disease do not exist. Worse still, aspirations are forbidden. People that do not know what it is to go hungry, to lose a home, to be chronically unemployed; people that can not see the pitfalls of public education and its consequences, and are incapable of recognising, much less of empathising, with the other are meant to be beacons of morality that should be followed blindly. Only full allegiance will do.It is concerning that such an infantile dystopia is shared among many of the Western world's "experts", intellectuals and "cool" politicos, for whom the poor are repugnant, a "basket of deplorables." And it is pervasive, almost omnipresent, Gramscian. Those who vote, and do so with their pockets, stomachs, or feet, deserve nothing but ostracism. Electoral results contrary to those expected by interest-in-possession life tenants, Claret-sipping Guardianistas, and assorted members of the status quo can only bring about cataclysmic chaos, ungovernability: the end of times.Hope can only be had for aligned candidates. Revolution? Only against perceived enemies (imperialism, capitalism, etc.) Only the right can be corrupt, and abuse power. Only right-wingers can be racist, and misogynistic. The Big Dog can't do wrong, victims of his predatory sexual abuses are nothing but gold diggers. It is perfectly fine, and beyond reproach, to illegally conduct affairs of State from the kitchen, breach duty of care, and abuse position in get-rich-quick schemes sanctioned by "non for profit" organisations.Donald Trump is a piece of work, no doubt. And perhaps America is the only place, well Italy comes to mind, where such a flawed character could reach the highest office. But the Clintons? I mean, seriously? Trump is certainly a member of that establishment that American voters seem so keen on getting rid of. He is as amoral, crooked, and every bit as selfish and megalomaniac as the other two. But instead of making himself unelectable by insulting the electorate, he employed that tried and tested method of telling people what they wanted to hear, something true believers are simply unwilling to even contemplate. American institutions will now have to deal with the resulting mess, checks and balances will guarantee observance to rule of law. Trump is just one clown, an American Hugo Chavez, bent on profiting from people's desperation, though the[...]



That most insolent democracy...

2016-06-29T09:17:15.192+00:00

The world at large is incensed. Livid. F%&£ pissed off. Imagine the Brits. The bloody Brits, or Little Englanders as they are now commonly known. They have dared to vote against the grain, against integration, against Christine Lagarde, Barack Obama AND The Guardian! The nerve... Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!! No joda! El coño de su puta madre con los ingleses!Brexit's what you get when you let democracy stand in the way of the grand diktats, the Master Plan, of the PC, progressive, metropolitan, über educated brigade. "How come my vote and that of a chronically unemployed person carries the same weight?" I heard a distinguished-looking Remainer express in utmost indignation in a pub in chic Primrose Hill. Racism works only when Little Englanders decide to exercise their inalienable right to self determination, you see? The Guardianistas know better than anyone else, you dear reader included, what's in everyone else's best interest.If an alien had landed from Mars on Friday, it could be forgiven for thinking that life in the British Isles started in 1973. For it was only after acceding to the European Economic Community that the United Kingdom's history started. Forget its rich and illustrious history. Forget the days of Empire and Magna Carta. Forget British idiosyncrasy and their sheer irreverence. Forget also their sense of fairness. Forget Britain's cultural, scientific, political, social, financial, military, academic and democratic additions to human knowledge. None existed. Ever. Eccentricity never took root in these lands. Europeans aren't, all of them, crying Heil Führer every morning because of the resolve, alliances, ingenuity and grit of Brits and Americans. No. They are the free bunch they are today thanks to that Luxembourger architect of one of the world's largest tax avoidance schemes and his sidekicks.The experts... Where should I start with them? For almost 17 years I have been hearing "the experts" say that Hugo Chavez is the best thing to have happened in Venezuela. The same "experts" have been diligently affirming that Fidel Castro is the best thing to have happened to Cuba, after all he created one of the "world's best health system". Their knowledge reaches every corner of the world. From China to America (Yanks also riled them when they voted -twice- for W). They sit in Islington, or somewhere in the City, yet they know better than any Arab, Latino, African, Indian or a New Yorker what's in their best interest. Racism does not get any more omniscient than this.I never thought I would see the day, to be honest. Being a radical anti chavista earned me the enmity of "the experts" a long time ago. I thought it was just something reserved to little indians and brown people born far away, like in Venezuela for instance. But no. Oh no. Born and bred Brits get exactly the same treatment by sophisticated types. Their voices don't count. That Brexit result? Invalid. Not binding. Irrelevant. Useless. "Let's have it again" they say. "A second referendum is needed". Venezuela is the laughinstock of the Americas because its government is contesting electoral results reached by the people, by the majority. Well, who would have guessed that the whole world's establishment is behaving pretty much like Nicolas Maduro, with respect to the choice voted by the majority of the British people? Jamie Dimon and George Osborne (Reuters).David Cameron is to go (a Brexit bonus). To be frank, he can't soon enough. Hopefully he'll take that odious and wretched Chancellor with him. I am sure Jamie Dimon will offer them a juicy package. There's also Lagarde, or a cosy half a million quid role in some multilateral or quango where they can continue applying their "expertise" on a part-time consultancy basis. Alas the political situation isn't getting any better. There's fratricide going on at the nasty people's party, while Labour is led by someone infatuated with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.Brexit will not only allow this country to get free from any constraint imposed by th[...]



My beef with #DerwickRamosAllup

2016-01-04T17:43:17.779+00:00

Some folks are calling it a triumph of politics. Others are singing the praises of a politico whose greatest achievement, to date, is to have outmaneuvered a bunch of green, hapless politicians that are totally unaccountable to their constituents. And yet others are just fawning. In Venezuela's absolutely destitute and desperate society, even people who should know better are happily spreading the HenryPonlesunParao hashtag...My beef with Henry Derwick Ramos Allup is quite simple. About two weeks after some chavista thugs broke into my flat, in London, to steal my laptops and to leave pictures of my daughters to terrorise and silence me, Mr Ramos Allup thought fitting to use his position, as Secretary General of Acción Democrática, to attack me, claiming (highlighted in picture):...blogueros delincuentes prófugos de la justicia nacional e internacional por delitos de narcotráfico, atraco, violación y lesiones...Translation:...delinquent bloggers, wanted by local and international justice for drug trafficking, assault, sexual abuse and injuries... Though Ramos Allup did not mention it explicitly, every one knew he was referring to me. Why would Ramos Allup write that I was allegedly wanted for drug trafficking, etc.? What was the basis, where was the evidence?Ramos Allup had been fed highly defamatory, and totally spurious, claims about me. The source of those claims, which Ramos Allup presumably had no reason to question, was his own family. For it has to be said and repeated, loud and clear, that Henry Ramos Allup, newly elected president of Venezuela's Congress, is the brother in law of Francisco D'Agostino, one of the Associates at Derwick. Henry Ramos Allup is married to Diana D'Agostino, Francisco's sister. The patriarch of the D'Agostino family is Franco: one of the most corrupt contractors of the period now known in Venezuela as "la cuarta republica", i.e. the 40 years that preceded Hugo Chavez's election. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/q7aI-3cvJ-w/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q7aI-3cvJ-w?feature=player_embedded" width="320"> I challenged Ramos Allup to show evidence of his claims, and I am -still- waiting for a reply. Ramos Allup loves to claim that his use and command of the Spanish language is "impeccable", and yet, he wrote a libellous piece that does not contain a single shred of verifiable evidence, admitting that it was based on an anonymous report that he had received in an unmarked envelope. So here we have, the incoming Chair of Venezuela's Congress attacking innocent people on the basis of anonymous reports received from unknown sources.In his utter chutzpah, Ramos Allup even claimed that he knows what has gone on with media acquisitions in Venezuela (first exposed here, and here), going as far as saying that those selling may have problems explaining source of funds when trying to get them out of Venezuela. He even mentions a Portuguese bank where Derwick has stashed some of its ill gotten money. Surely, he must have issued similar warnings over the years to his brother in law and father in law, right?Is this the kind of politico that will get the new Congress to put a stop to rampant corruption in Venezuela? I shall wear as a badge of honour that both outgoing Chair of Congress #narcodiosdado and incoming Chair #DerwickRamosAllup have blocked me on Twitter, for in my view corruption has no political colour, it's like human rights and it admits only one stance: for or against.[...]



Roberto Rincon arrested in Houston for money laundering

2015-12-20T12:39:04.947+00:00

The news in the Venezuelan Twitter sphere last night was the arrest in Houston (unconfirmed by official sources as of this writing) of Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera.

Journalist Casto Ocando said on Twitter that Rincon had been arrested for money laundering in association with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), adding that members of a "Homeland Security's elite unit of financial of crimes had been investigating Rincon for years" prior to his arrest.

Sources consulted confirmed, extra officially, that Rincon and Shiera had indeed been arrested.

Journalist Cesar Batiz did a thorough profile on Rincon and his business empire.

Further leaks to this site reveal an interesting detail: right after Hugo Carvajal was arrested in Aruba by the DEA, Rincon (an long time partner of Carvajal) started traveling on a diplomatic passport, no 0841947189, as shown in picture (below). Furthermore, when Dutch authorities in Aruba decided to release Carvajal, (since 2008 in OFAC kingpins list for "materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a narco-terrorist organization") on some technicality (more on pressure from chavista regime) Rincon's plane (N9GY) took Carvajal back to Venezuela.


And who do we see, as a regular passenger since Feb 2010 of Rincon's N9GY jet? None other than Abraham Shiera, also arrested with Rincon. For a backgrounder on both Rincon and Shiera (and other respected members of the chavista Boliburgeoisie) and their virtual spin doctor of choice, Setty has a thorough investigation here

Venezuelan immigration records show Rincon and Shiera using a fleet of N-plate jets for their travels: N999GY, N91GY, N9GY, N723AA, N200CV, N604RR, N112WJ, N840TC, N713SA, N900DL, N727AT, N556HJ, and N245MS. Lots of trip between Maracaibo and Bogota, Aruba, Panama, Ft Lauderdale, and Miami.

(image)



#speechless

2015-12-08T19:09:12.589+00:00

Still trying to come to terms with the enormity of what happened in Venezuela a couple days ago. Still difficult to believe that a bunch of thugs, otherwise knows as chavismo, with so many skeletons in their closets, with so much to lose, with their immediate freedom in great peril, sort of gave up, conceding an election. An election, in Venezuela, just like that.Now I'm on the record, railing against the fairness and transparency of what's come to be known as the "world's best electoral system." I am perhaps the Venezuelan blogger that has written more on the topic. My investigation into the way in which Smartmatic came to be the provider of choice for electoral processes in Venezuela started sometime in 2004, and is still ongoing. The website I created and used to run, vcrisis.com, published in 2006 perhaps the first ever audit, in English, of Venezuela's electoral roll. In 2007, Hugo Chavez thought he would become Emperor of Venezuela. He proposed such far ranging amendments to the constitution, that even his own followers turned their backs and didn't back it up. We are still waiting for the final results of that vote, the only one Chavez ever lost. In August 2004, there was a recall referendum on Chavez's stay in power. After years of negotiations between opposition parties' representatives, government and international mediators, Venezuelan electoral authorities announced, in the early hours of the morning as it has become norm, that Chavez had won by an almost 20% margin. No one checked that results announced were correct. No one could. As a matter of historical fact, no observer, international or otherwise, was allowed to witness the final tally. Opposition representatives did not have a clue of what was happening within the bowels of the Ministry of Elections. Carter Center and OAS representatives fucked up, big time, in safeguarding ballot boxes in the places where they were stationed, and in further guaranteeing that the joke of an audit conducted three days after was done properly. In 2005, an opposition technician showed during an audit in front of international observers that the secrecy of the vote was compromised. Another audit, of the electoral roll organized by the electoral body, ended up concluding that the roll simply wasn't fit for purpose.All of that hung in my mind, like a hanged body. Like something you just can't ignore when trying to inform a decision on whether the electoral, under such circumstances, was ever to become a viable solution to get rid of chavismo's power stranglehold. I became an advocate, and wrote countless words about how the opposition, armed with nothing but current legislation, should demand conditions, as dictated by law. I railed against the opposition, endlessly, for accepting the unilateral, and illegal, imposition of unfair electoral conditions. Time and time again I argued what I thought was only fair, and self evident.So count me among those who were skeptical about elections in Venezuela, among those who denigrated an opposition leadership that never stood up for our electoral rights. But then Sunday happened (6D). With all of the above, against a State that bracenly used all power available to it, legal and otherwise, Venezuelans voted massively against chavismo, against the hunger, violence, misery and, above all, against the hardship that chavismo has unleashed like a curse on Venezuela. I will be hated for this, but I will call it a punishment vote (voto castigo). Venezuelans, chavistas or not, voted against chavismo. The monumental clusterfuck that Venezuela has become is chavismo's, and chavismo's only, legacy. But within it, in its defined political context, I admit I was never expecting such a quick, zanahoria, give up. People with so much at stake aren't supposed to give up without a proper fight. In all honesty I never thought this would happen, and oh have I been proved wrong!As some people heard my rants against elector[...]



Chavista propaganda brings disrepute to Foreign Policy

2015-09-16T17:07:35.939+00:00

Got late to the party, must admit. The discussion at hand is -yet another- exhibit of yellow journalism, this time by the otherwise reputed Foreign Policy magazine.In short, a propagandist of the Maduro regime was caught, as we say, "cagando y sin papel". Before anyone thinks that my use of the term propagandist is inaccurate, or unfair, here we have Mr Rob Lovato, described as a "writer and scholar", who does not find relevant to disclose to publications that presumably commission jobs to him, to reveal professional relations that bring unavoidable conflicts of interests.So let's say that the editors of Foreign Policy got a "profile" of Leopoldo Lopez (Vzlan opposition leader recently condemned to nearly 14 years imprisonment) from Mr Lovato. Given that the piece was meant to have been "reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, with support from the Puffin Foundation", one must presume that necessary editorial consideration was given to the facts presented by all editors involved.After publication, information about Mr Lovato's professional relations with TELESUR surfaced. To those who may have missed it, TELESUR is a Pan-American, Venezuela-funded, chavista "news" channel, as trustworthy and objective as Putin's Russia Today. It remains to be seen whether Lovato disclosed to Foreign Policy and The Nation that he had been previously contracted by TELESUR to do some programs, and later produced the "profile" on Lopez.According to Lopez's lawyers and Pedro Burelli (mentioned throughout Lovato's piece) the article contains several inaccuracies, which Foreign Policy seems to be aggregating as "clarifications and corrections" at the end of the article.But now we know that Lovato has been taking cues from Venezuela Information Office propagandists in Hugo Chavez's employ since, at least, September 2007, when Mr Lovato was a writer for New America Media and The Nation, and was being asked by chavistas to, basically, "publish oped": read regurgitate propaganda.The two images above come from FARA reports filed by the now-extinct Venezuela Information Office, a Venezuelan government-financed and Venezuelan embassy-managed "information office" run from Washington DC. Did Lovato ever disclose this to The Nation and Foreign Policy?Chavistas are having a ball with U.S. media these days. Whether is Bloomberg, Forbes or Foreign Policy, it seems to be getting easier for sly operators to get past clueless editors that can't be bothered to apply a minimum of editorial rigour to demonstrably unsubstantiated BS.[...]



CAJUBI fraud: Marcelo Barone arrested in London

2015-09-01T08:28:29.605+00:00

(image)
Marcelo Barone and Elisabel Vazquez (photo from ABC Color, Paraguay)
Readers might remember an investigation / collaboration I did in 2012 with Mabel Renhfeldt from Paraguay about a Venezuelan couple, Marcelo Barone and Elisabel Vazquez, who had defrauded some $36 million from a workers' fund in CAJUBI, the Brazilian-Paraguayan entity in charge of running Itaipu's dam.

As it turns, Barone, who was running from Paraguayan justice and is listed as wanted by INTERPOL along wife / partner in crime Vazquez, was finally arrested in London on 23 August according to Paraguayan media. A hearing in London today will determine whether Barone is released on bail, or whether he will remain in jail until January 2016 as per Paraguay's extradition request process.

Details of the whereabouts of Vazquez remain sketchy. Some reports claim Vazquez is in a clinic somewhere in London, while others suggest she was also arrested.

It is a matter of great pride to have collaborated in this investigation, and to see that authorities in some parts of the world are actually doing something against corruption.(image)



Steal over a billion > Bloomberg'll call it 'family feud'

2015-08-21T18:03:28.937+00:00

The message from the Bloomberg reporter read:"Hi, I'm a reporter doing something on Derwick. Can I give you a call to ask a couple of questions?"By this time, it's evident emails and calls are standard procedure of journalists / researchers reporting Venezuela, just to cover their backs and say "yeah, we called the guy, he gave us the usual about Mr Betancourt and his Derwick co..."While I admit it is utterly unprofessional to be posting emails sent privately without the other party's consent, I just can't honor convention with reporters that epitomise unprofessionalism. After receiving the message above I called the reporter, and answered the "couple of questions" and more. But this is precisely the problem of editorial desks and journalists around the world: to think that a meaningful story can be produced by asking "a couple of questions". Invariably, initial niceties are followed by "I don't know anything about Venezuela..." or "this story is well beyond my area of expertise..."When one asks clueless reporters what would happen in their countries should a Derwick-like scandal take place, all of them, without failure, say "yeah, I guess you're right, it would be a scandal, heads would roll..."So why the difference? Why is it that reporting corruption-related issues in America and Europe gain lots of traction, catapult to stardom whoever brings them to light, official probes ensue, but doing same about under-developed countries gets spun into 'family feuds'?Venezuelans can only feel envy at what's happening in Brazil, with Petrobras, Odebrecht, etc. That however, as dramatic as it may seem, is children's play next to what goes on in our country. Corruption in PDVSA and Venezuela is orders of magnitude larger that whatever's been done in Brazil, and yet, Venezuela's most notorious gang of corrupt businessmen are presented as entrepreneurial mavericks. This is beyond sickening, and not the first time that Bloomberg misrepresents Venezuelan thugs.Once upon a time, Forbes was made to retract an attempt at whitewashing Derwick, but they seem to have a soft spot for Bolichoros. Same goes with Bloomberg and its reporting of Derwick. Money laundering of the multimillion dollar kind is called "growth plan". Corruption, bribes, no-bid contracting and misappropriation of public funds through massive overcharges by Derwick execs is called "a family divided over his business dealings with Chavez’s government." Probes by U.S. Federal agencies, Manhattan's DA, and Spain's anti money laundering authorities, and investigative reports exposing lack of credentials get summarised as "certain relatives who weren’t happy". Doublespeak that would make Goebbels, or chavismo, proud.Bloomberg's hacks are yet to awake to the realities of Venezuelan corruption. Producing copy, without asking any proper questions, seem to be their sole remit. And that would be fine, if it weren't a business-oriented publication. As it is, failing to establish clear and evident links between shell companies and proxies of thugs being investigated in at least two jurisdictions is inexcusable, hard to take it as mere unprofessionalism. Failing to mention forays into business areas unrelated to Derwick's alleged expertise is equally concerning, for it is now common knowledge that Derwick has a hand in Petrodelta -through Francisco D'Agostino- and in Petrozamora -through Orlando Alvarado, in association with PDVSA and Russian interests (Gazprom). Why is this not mentioned?When did Derwick become an oil-focused company and what credentials, aside the stolen millions that allowed for such, have their execs? What track record -in oil- do they bring to the table? Why is Bloomberg regurgitating Derwick's BS instead of asking questions pertinent to shareholders and interested parties?[...]



Pacific Rubiales wakes up to O'Hara / Derwick Associates money laundering scam

2015-06-19T11:03:57.507+00:00

O'Hara Administration Co., S.A. ("O'Hara") calls upon its fellow minority shareholders of Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. ("Pacific Rubiales") to VOTE AGAINST the special resolution (the "Arrangement Resolution") to approve an arrangement whereby ALFA S.A.B. de C.V. ("ALFA") and Harbour Energy Ltd. ("Harbour") are proposing to acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares ("Common Shares") of Pacific Rubiales for C$6.50 per share (the "Proposed Arrangement"). O'Hara believes that the Proposed Arrangement undervalues the Common Shares, is opportunistic given current market volatility, inappropriately incentivizes management at the expense of the minority shareholders and is not in the best interests of the minority shareholders. You got to give it to these thugs. Boldness isn't something they lack. For here we have, a "group of investors", with no verifiable track record in oil & gas, anywhere on earth, represented by none other than Orlando Alvarado (Derwick Associates CFO), that mere days before Pacific was to announce ALFA's offer just happened to take an interest in Pacific, and in quick succession acquired nearly 20% of its shares. Opportunistic? Nooooo, just take Alvarado's word for it.Pacific was caught napping, no doubt. It remains to be seen who leaked what, or how did Derwick find out about ALFA's impending announcement. What is unobjectionable is that once it did, Derwick reacted very quickly AND did the utmost to maintain its connection to O'Hara hidden. That is, of course, until I got information from Barbados registrar of companies about IPC Investments, one of the vehicles used by O'Hara and controlled by Alejandro Betancourt, Derwick's CEO. Then another shell controlled by Betancourt popped up in Pacific's shares purchase: Agency Partners, a vehicle used by Betancourt to buy a flat in Miami's Jade Ocean. It was then reported that Volbor Trading, O'Hara Administration, and Telmaven Overseas were three other shells controlled by Betancourt through Alvarado.Pacific seems to have realised the dangers of allowing itself to be used by Betancourt & co for what amounts to a naked money laundering attempt. It announced some counter actions yesterday:Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (TSX: PRE) (BVC: PREC) today announced that, after receiving approval from the Independent Committee of the Board of Directors, the Company is filing an application (the "Application") before the Supreme Court of British Columbia (the "Court") in connection with the proposed arrangement involving the Company, ALFA, S.A.B. de C.V. ("ALFA"), Harbour Energy, L.P., Harbour Energy Ltd. ("Harbour Energy") and 1035815 B.C. Ltd. (the "Purchaser"), pursuant to which the Purchaser would acquire all of the outstanding common shares of the Company ("Common Shares") not already owned by ALFA or held by the Company in treasury for cash consideration of C$6.50 per share (the "Arrangement"). The Application is being filed in response to significant concerns raised by Pacific Rubiales shareholders about how members of a group of Shareholders acting jointly and in concert led by O'Hara Administration Co., S.A. ("O'Hara") and Alejandro Betancourt (collectively, the "O'Hara Group") acquired their Common Shares.In its release, Pacific asks a number of pertinent questions:Who is O'Hara? What is their investment track record in oil and gas? What is their history of corporate governance? How long have they owned their Common Shares? What is the O'Hara Group's relationship with Derwick Associates? Why is their circular lacking disclosure on these material issues? What are they trying to hide?I feel like I can answer that.O'Hara is but a vehicle chosen by Alejandro Betancourt and his partners to "diversify", given the irremovable corruption stench that the Derwick brand has.None. As in non existen[...]



Robert Hanson shows how to vanish Venezuela's largest newspaper conglomerate from books

2015-06-04T11:45:32.465+00:00

Here's the background. In short, a London socialite called Robert Hanson (pictured), son of Margaret Thatcher's "favourite tycoon", purportedly "bought" in late 2013 Cadena Capriles, Venezuela's largest newspaper conglomerate.The operation was, of course, a sham intended to hide Cadena Capriles ultimate controlling party. Through special purpose vehicles created solely to keep chavista names hidden from view, Hanson set up a shell in Curaçao called Latam Media Holding N.V., dispatched to Caracas his associate Patrick Teroerde, who "paid" over 90 million USD, and got hold, along with chavista banker Victor Vargas of Banco Occidental de Descuento, of Cadena Capriles. The Curaçao shell is managed by TMF Curaçao N.V. although Venezuelan reports claimed that London-based Hanson Asset Management (HAM) owned Latam Media Holding.  HAM returns are freely available in Companies House beta website.There are some interesting bits in Hanson Asset Management accounts made up to 31 March 2014. For instance this: Could Hanson Holdings Lux SARL have been used to purchase Cadena Capriles, to then be given to somebody else for a profit of £3,611? We'll have to check Luxembourg's records...But then, there's this other bit:Net assets amounting to £1,437,409 at 31 March 2014? So if Cadena Capriles is not hidden in Luxembourg (a jurisdiction favoured by media-loving chavistas), where is it?Hanson Investment Holdings Limited, interestingly incorporated in December 2013, has not filed accounts as yet. Teroerde has got one share in it and Hanson Capital Limited -with a declared capital of £50,000- has another. What happened then to that asset bought in Venezuela for over 90 million USD? A look into the purchase of Spanish magazine Cambio16 exposed a few dodgy connections between high ranking chavistas, boligarchs, PDVSA, Bell Pottinger and French investment firm Lazard. Both Lazard and Hanson are acquainted with Bell Pottinger, and all three have been engaged in illegal deals in Venezuela recently. While no investigation in a country described as a narcostate will flush out Hanson's partners, UK authorities should perhaps follow the American example and launch proper investigations into massive corruption rackets taking place in London. For one thing is to front for Venezuelan white collar thugs, but for drug dealers? Quite another...[...]



#carae'piñadiosdado

2015-05-21T11:57:58.469+00:00

Not everyday the WSJ graces its front page with news about TQNLQNSPM* stock, though surprisingly it did yesterday. Jose De Córdoba and Juan Forero brought it home with an extensive account on how several U.S. Federal Agencies, including the DEA, are basically closing in on Diosdado Cabello (pictured sporting a chic red beret), for turning the country into a narco-state. As one of Venezuela's foremost authorities on corruption, I am glad that a major U.S. news outlet finally exposed what's been vox populi for quite some time now.Those who haven't been paying attention will find the piece interesting, specially claims from authoritative sources about Cabello's role in the Sun's Cartel (Cartel de los Soles: so named for it is run by Venezuela's top brass, i.e. those who have suns insignia in their epaulettes):A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most-powerful man. “There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel,” said the Justice Department official, speaking of a group of military officers and top officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade. “He certainly is a main target.” De Córdoba and Forero cite a "Justice Department Official" who said that Venezuela is run by a "criminal organization". That much we also knew. Some key figures were left out however. No mention to Ramon Rodríguez Chacín, or Antonio José Morales Rodríguez (aka "el catre"), who, according to exiled Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte Aponte, called him to order the release of Pedro Maggino (from 21:18 in video). The archive comes handy:"... a trusted reader informs us that Majed Khalil is the bagman of General Francisco Rangel Gomez, former president of aluminium and mining giant Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG), current Governor of Bolivar state. Hence his deals with CVG. Majed Khalil is also a partner -and best man- of Lieutenant Antonio José Morales Rodríguez (aka "el catre"), godson and aide-de-camp of Hugo Chavez and one of his most trusted men. Morales is currently director of the office of the Secretary of Venezuela's Presidency. Morales has recently been fingered by former Supreme Court Judge Eladio Aponte Aponte as one of the men who ordered him to free an army drug trafficker (Pedro Maggino) caught with 2 tonnes of cocaine in Venezuela.So it is not only Leamsy Salazar, Cabello's former bodyguard featured throughout, who's witnessed involvement in drug trafficking at the very highest levels, Chavez's very own is also ear-deep in it, despite Oliver Stone's willingness to take a drug trafficker at face value.U.S. authorities could most certainly tap, at a moment's notice, on a vast network of Bolivarian thugs that have made the U.S. their playground. I'm thinking Francisco D'Agostino, Victor Vargas, Victor Gill, Roberto Rincón, José Zambrano, Rafael Sarria, Pedro Torres Ciliberto and his son Pedro Torres Picón, David Osío, Andrés Coles, Alejandro Andrade, Danilo Díaz Granados, Luis Oberto and his gang... Mind you there's no shortage of Venezuelans -whose ill gotten wealth came from deals with / sanctioned by Cabello- that could reveal the extent of his links to criminal activity. But then again, perhaps those mentioned, and then some, are part of the 56 Bolichoros whose visas have been withdrawn by the U.S. Government and are now singing in a desperate attempt to keep laundered proceeds.Sources have told me that numerous federal investigations are taking place in New York, Florida, and Texas, where chavista "businessmen" tend to concentrate. Bolivarian "financiers" took to money laundering with such gusto that[...]



Derwick Associates claims another victory against Otto Reich in NY bribery lawsuit

2015-05-01T10:02:06.950+00:00

United States District Judge, J. Paul Oetken, dismissed former Western Hemisphere Affairs Secretary, Otto Reich, jurisdictional claims presented in a bribery lawsuit against Derwick Associates filed by the former diplomat in New York. In a stinging decision, Judge Oetken derides some of Reich's arguments about Derwick's executive Pedro Trebbau, stating:Plaintiffs offer essentially the same set of facts in support of jurisdiction over Trebbau, with one important exception: Trebbau neither owns nor rents any real estate in New York at all. Instead, Plaintiffs contend, his New York residence is the home of his friend and banker, Eduardo Travieso. Plaintiffs argue that “given Defendants’ wealth and stature, it is simply implausible that they could maintain their extravagant lifestyles in Venezuela—a violent, third- world country beset by rampant blackouts, food shortages and gross poverty.” (Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Betancourt’s and Trebbau’s Motions to Dismiss, at 10 [Plaintiffs’ Memorandum].) And yet Plaintiffs would have the Court believe that a man of Trebbau’s estimable “wealth and stature” permanently intends to crash on his friend’s couch. (bold added)Judge Oetken's decision is a thing of beauty. It demonstrates, for one, that due process, when functioning as intended, is never encumbered with tangential stuff that has no direct bearing on the issue at hand, which is determining jurisdiction on the basis of facts presented in this particular instance.Having property, bank accounts, mortgages, visiting, and spending money in a place does not amount, in Judge Oetken's view, to being domiciled in that place. Ed Miliband would disagree though. So while Alejandro Betancourt -Derwick's CEO / $PRE.to third largest shareholder- admits to have just 35% of his total net worth in New York -Reich claims Betancourt keeps $68 million in NY banks- he is not domiciled in New York, and therefore New York courts have no jurisdiction over his affairs, as pertaining to bribery claims against Derwick Associates in the context of this lawsuit.Reich basically failed to demonstrate that Betancourt and Trebbau were domiciled in New York. That's what it came down to. The lawsuit never got to the juicy part: bribery allegations that could have shed light on the manner in which Derwick got over a billion dollars in 12 no-bid contracts from the Venezuelan State.In the meantime, US Federal Agencies and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office continue probing Derwick and its commercial activities. I have been told that there's a particular interest in exploring connections to Diosdado Cabello, who appears to have become target no 1 for US law enforcement interested in Venezuela.[...]



London's Met Police hunt for burglars of my flat

2015-05-01T10:00:23.814+00:00

Background from Reuters.
Update: Bloomberg sort of confirms what I exposed, but lacks the integrity of describing Derwick's CFO (Orlando Alvarado) as Derwick CFO, claiming instead that Alvarado and his "partner" (boss Betancourt) are "private-sector businessmen with no ties to the government and prefer to remain anonymous"...


As per news report:
Published: 18 March, 2015 By ALINA POLIANSKAYA |  POLICE are looking to speak to three people in connection with a burglary in Primrose Hill, in which two computers were stolen from a flat.
The men were caught on CCTV inside the building, after being refused entry into the secure block by the porter. They tried buzzing for entry several times, between 8am and 9.45am on November 17 last year, and though they were denied access, they were later caught on camera in the building.
One suspect, who is described as Middle Eastern, aged approximately 40 and of medium build, was wearing a light brown jacket over a white shirt, a blue-grey scarf and grey flat cap. Another is aged around 25, of Mediterranean appearance and of slim build. He wore a shiny, red quilted jacket with white writing on the chest and crown of the hood, which was worn up. He also had on black lycra jogging bottoms The third suspect was a 40 to 50 year old white man, of medium build. He had a goatee beard and wore a grey hooded coat with a grey hat under the hoof and a grey scaf.
Police urge anyone who can identify these men or know where they are, to contact DC Stephanie Barron of Camden CID on 101.
(image)



Tambalea el chavismo

2015-03-27T13:18:37.520+00:00

p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; direction: ltr; color: rgb(0, 0, 10); line-height: 120%; text-align: left; }p.western { font-family: "Cambria",serif; font-size: 12pt; }p.cjk { font-family: "Arial Unicode MS"; font-size: 12pt; }p.ctl { font-family: "Arial Unicode MS"; font-size: 12pt; }a:link { } Todo evento histórico cuenta con un momento decisivo. Propondré que la carrera política de Hugo Chavez no comenzó con el golpe de estado, sino con aquella entrevista en la cual se dirigió a la nación y pronunció el famoso “por ahora”. Aquel breve discurso capturó la imaginación de una sociedad, y catapultó al golpista al estrellato. A más de dos décadas de aquel momento, Venezuela se encuentra en una vergonzosa situación. No está igual, o mejor, que en 1992, o 1999, está peor, mucho peor, en cuanto renglón o aspecto mesurable se considere. En el 2015 ha ocurrido un evento que pudiera ser el principio del fin del chavismo. La Orden Ejecutiva del Presidente Barack Obama, congelando cuentas y bienes, y suspendiendo visas a siete esbirros del régimen de Nicolas Maduro por graves violaciones a los derechos humanos y corrupción entre otras cosas, ha sido, en mi opinión, un momento decisivo en la historia política de Venezuela. No lo es por el lenguaje declarando a Venezuela una amenaza contra los EEUU, ya que ello es una formalidad legal requerida para tales decisiones del ejecutivo estadounidense, sino por las repercusiones que dicha orden ha tenido. A tan sólo unos días de la orden del Presidente Obama, el Departamento del Tesoro de los EEUU a través de su oficina de prevención de delitos financieros (FINCEN), hizo pública otra orden, esta vez contra Banca Privada de Andorra (BPA). La orden de FINCEN identifica a un ruso, a un chino, y menciona, sin proveer nombres, a operadores financieros que habrían participado en apropiación indebida y blanqueo de 4.200 millones de dólares de PDVSA. El anuncio de FINCEN ha causado, a su vez, un terremoto en el sector financiero andorrano y español, ya que el BPA es dueño del Banco de Madrid, otro banco que opera en España. Investigaciones de la Comisión de Prevención de Blanqueo de Capitales e Infracciones Monetarias de España (SEPBLAC), hechas públicas por el diario El Mundo, identifican con nombre y apellido a seis operadores venezolanos mencionados por FINCEN. Los mencionados por El Mundo son: Alcides Rondón, Javier Alvarado, Nervis Villalobos, Carlos Aguilera, Omar Farías, y Rafael Jiménez. Reportajes subsiguientes afirman que estos individuos, en conjunto, recibieron sobornos por unos 140 millones de dólares para la obtención de contratos con instituciones del estado venezolano. Mientras ese escándalo se ventila en la prensa española, la venezolana no hace mención al respecto. Ello se debe a que el chavismo controla, directa o indirectamente, casi la totalidad de los grandes medios en Venezuela. Lo que está por ventilarse sobre las adquisiciones de dichos medios es de singular gravedad. Ahora, suceda eso o no, algunos de los operadores que llevaron a cabo dichas adquisiciones, junto con el régimen chavista, también son objeto de atención, investigación y seguimiento por parte de autoridades federales estadounidenses. La Orden Ejecutiva identifica a siete funcionarios chavistas, pero no son los únicos. Tras bastidores agentes federales han estado actualizando bases de datos con información sobre las actividades de Victor Vargas, Victor Gill, Danilo Díaz Granados, David Osío, Wilmer Ruperti, Luis Oberto, Roberto Rincón, entre otros dizque empresarios, banqueros, y operadores financieros venezolanos. Algunos de ellos, como Vargas y Gill, están ya cooperando con la[...]



Derwick Associates paid bribes to get contracts in Venezuela

2015-03-23T11:38:35.797+00:00

[UPDATED*] On Monday this week, one of Spain's newspapers of record (El Mundo), published the details of six Venezuelans being investigated, by Spain's Anti Money Laundering squad (SEPBLAC), for having taken part in money laundering. The news came after the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) singled out a bank in Andorra (BPA), a tax haven tucked in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, for having laundered money for Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan criminals. FINCEN's announcement came in the back of an Executive Order from President Barack Obama, targeting seven high ranking chavistas, for being "involved in or responsible for the erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the significant public corruption by senior government officials in Venezuela."p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; line-height: 120%; } *Fresh reports from another paper of record indicate that Spanish companies paid $148 million to obtain contracts in Venezuela (in English here).Two of the six individuals identified, Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, have been named in a lawsuit brought against Derwick for having received millions of dollars worth of bribes. Furthermore, Villalobos is no stranger to corruption accusations in Venezuela. The man has got pedigree.Villalobos was Venezuela's Viceminister of Energy and CEO of CADAFE, a power company fully owned by the Venezuelan State. In 2007, Chavez ordered all power companies, whether public or private, to merge into a nationwide conglomerate named CORPOELEC. Having being sacked from his CADAFE position by Hugo Chavez, Villalobos was brought back as an aide of sorts by Rafael Ramirez, longtime Energy Minister and CEO of PDVSA. Villalobos has been a regular passenger in flights aboard Derwick airlines.Alvarado, on his part, was CEO of Electricidad de Caracas, and shared with Ramirez important board positions at newly formed CORPOELEC. Alvarado's son, also called Javier, is a school friend of Pedro Trebbau, one of Derwick's top executives. In fact, when Alvarado Jr was importing an old Porsche he bought from a convicted oil trader, he gave Derwick's office address in Caracas as contact. FINCEN's report mentioned PDVSA as source of syphoned billions. Derwick Associates got all its 12 contracts either directly from CORPOELEC (through Alvarado and Villalobos), or from its partner PDVSA / Bariven (through Villalobos and Ramirez). El Mundo then revealed that Duro Felguera, a Spanish procurement company, had paid Villalobos $50 million for “oral consulting”, in relation to a €1,500 million contract in Venezuela (Termocentro). The exposé caused Duro Felguera a 10% drop in share value.In a separate deal, ProEnergy paid bribes to Majed Khalil Majzoub ($8 million) and Omar Petit ($1.3 million) to obtain another contract in Venezuela (Termozulia). And what a thug is that Majzoub...Petit used to work for ProEnergy, as Director of Latin America Business Development. His father, of same name, worked for PDVSA until retirement. Venezuelan sources claim that Petit Sr was an associate of sorts of Jesus Rangel, former CEO of C.A. Energía Eléctrica de Venezuela (Enelven), yet another one of the companies absorbed by CORPOELEC. Crucially, Rangel was ratified in his position at Enelven by Villalobos, after a political cleansing of anti Chavez workers in 2004. ProEnergy and Derwick have submitted procurement proposals to Venezuelan institutions. They started doing so long bef[...]



The world is shrinking for Derwick Associates

2015-03-16T14:34:01.921+00:00

One of Spain's newspapers of record, El Mundo, published in its front page today about corrupt officials from Venezuela using the subsidiary of a little bank in Andorra to launder billions of dollars. The news may come as a surprise to some. Readers of this and other blogs of mine will, I hope, share a feeling of vindication with me today, for as extraordinary as El Mundo's decision to name names is, we have known this for a while. In fact, I alerted Spain's money laundering authorities (SEPBLAC) about it in April 2012.Six names have been mentioned in relation to this money laundering scandal: Alcides Rondon, Carlos Aguilera, Omar Farias, Rafael Jimenez, Javier Alvarado and Nervis Villalobos. Some background is provided, though much information still needs to make it to print.Derwick Associates has been described by El Mundo as an American company that has benefited from public contracts given by Alvarado and Villalobos, now under investigation. Derwick is not an American co, we know that, but Alvarado and Villalobos are key to this multibillion dollar swindle.Nervis Villalobos was Viceminister of Energy and CEO of CADAFE just prior to Hugo Chavez decision to merge all power companies in Venezuela in 2007, while Alvarado and PDVSA's CEO Rafael Ramirez shared important board positions at the newly created CORPOELEC. More relevant still, all 12 contracts awarded to Derwick Associates were given by CORPOELEC and / or its subsidiaries / partners (CVG and PDVSA / BARIVEN). Missouri-based ProEnergy Services -under investigation by U.S. Federal Agencies- was then subcontracted to carry out all the work.Luis Jose Diaz Zuloaga, stepfather of one of Derwick's principals (Francisco Convit), was CEO of Electricidad de Valencia (one of the private cos forcefully absorbed by CORPOELEC). Javier Alvarado, in turn, is the father of a close school chum of Pedro Trebbau (Alvarado Jr on the left, with light blue, Trebbau in the center, dark blue and glasses).Through Diaz Zuloaga, Villalobos, Alvarado and Ramirez, the Derwick bolichicos managed to get over 1.3 billion USD worth of contracts, according to ProEnergy Services sources familiar with the deals. In addition, Derwick overcharged the Venezuelan State 35%, on average, on each contract, according to leaked documents and ProEnergy Services sources familiar with the contracts.Spain has been one of Derwick's favourite destinations. Millions of Euros have been spent in lavish weddings, and real estate acquisitions. The Bank of Spain, now at the centre of Andorra's money laundering scandal, ignored AML regulations in purchases involving Derwick. This may be due to the fact that the CEO of the subsidiary of Banca Privada D'Andorra (BPA) operating in Madrid (Banco de Madrid), Mr Jose Perez Fernandez, is a former Director of Compliance of Bank of Spain. The Derwick thugs have become so emboldened that relatives have threatened Spanish journalists,  forcing them to sign gag orders prohibiting any disclosure about their "businesses". Some of the money that Derwick used for property purchases didn't come from BPA / Banco Madrid though, but from Portugal's BANIF, yet another provider of money laundering services for PDVSA's middlemen such as Villalobos.Spanish authorities have been caught napping at the wheel with regards to arrival of Venezuelan "entrepreneurs" and their "wealth". The case of Juan Carlos Escotet provides the perfect case study. But others come to mind: Miguel Angel Capriles Lopez, or Victor Vargas's acquisition through proxies of Banco Europeo de Finanzas. The reality is that none of these fortunes are legitimate. Cursory checks on origin would, [...]



On U.S. sanctions to chavistas: A note of gratitude to Obama, and a tip

2015-03-10T12:17:35.639+00:00

Dear President Obama,Thank you.Thank you for having the courage to sanction a bunch of thugs, when all other democratic nations turn their backs on us.Thank you for showing that Liberals do not tolerate human rights violators, regardless of where they stand in the political spectrum.Thank you for shining a light of hope upon our battered nation.Not long ago, I was in a conference about the offshore financial services industry. I remember, in particular, a conversation with the organizer, who claimed that the only country in the world that does something with regards to money launderers is the U.S.We have seen how U.S. authorities have slapped big banks with hefty fines, due to their involvement in financing terrorism, large scale money laundering and other similar actions.Your Executive Order imposing sanctions on seven chavistas suggests that those who associate and partake in the "illicit financial flows from public corruption in Venezuela" will also be targeted. As one of Venezuela's foremost researchers on corruption, let me stress upon the importance of targeting such people.What keeps Nicolas Maduro's regime in power is not the might of its armed forces; is not the brutality meted out on innocents, or torture and assassination of students; is not its political cunning, nor its association with the communist Cuban handlers. But rather corruption. The freedom to use Venezuela's cash with absolute discretion, and without any form of accountability, that's what keeps chavismo in power.If you were to disrupt that, by sanctioning the enablers, the facilitators of corruption, chavismo would tremble. For the U.S. financial system, which your EO aims to protect, continues to act as a gigantic laundromat, for nearly all involved in corruption in Venezuela. U.S. based banks, lawyers, lobbyists and businesses are employed as a matter of standard practice by the Boliburgeoisie. It'll be difficult, even for you, to be able to impose meaningful sanctions on somebody like Diosdado Cabello. But you can very well hit his proxies, the financial operators that use the U.S. financial system to launder the proceeds of corruption. You could start with Roberto Rincón, based in Texas. He knows a thing or two about other OFAC-designated thugs, like Hugo Carvajal, a distinguished member of Diosdado's "Cartel de los Soles."You could summon Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi. Now that one is a double -perhaps a triple, quadruple...?- whammy:he is married to Victor Gill's daughter; used to be partner of Raul Gorrín;does deals with Francisco D'Agostino (also New York-based and currently under investigation by Manhattan's DA Office and other Federal Agencies), who's in turn married to Victor Vargas' daughter; is partner in some other deals with Coco Capriles (one of Nelson Merentes' favourite proxies / operators); is associated with Derwick Associates folks, reportedly as Venezuela's largest black market forex operators; has a direct line to the very top of PDVSA (Rafael Ramirez, Baldo Sanso, and Asdrubal Chavez), reportedly allocator of hundreds of millions of dollars to be used in arbitrage;did, together with his father, some deals with Wilmer Ruperti;is into banking, insurance, food processing, and services in Venezuela;reportedly does business with Danilo Diaz Granados and Leonardo Gonzalez Dellán.The above, there are many more living in the U.S.A., are the kind of informants that can help you sanction with surgical precision Venezuela's top human rights violators.[...]



How to get a bank for free, Juan Carlos Escotet style

2015-03-24T09:35:14.011+00:00

While investors and businesses were running for cover, multinationals were unable to repatriate profits, inflation and devaluation killed the Bolivar "Fuerte" (BsF) value, and the Venezuelan economy went to the dogs chavistas, a Boliburgeois banker, Juan Carlos Escotet, managed quite an extraordinary deal. No point denying it, so kudos are in order.Say you have a bank (BANESCO) in a country with three different foreign exchange rates (Venezuela):the first ($1 = 6.3 BsF) available only to businesses dealing with "critical" imports (i.e. food, medicine, etc.); the second ($1 = 12 BsF) available to businesses in not so "critical" sectors; and the third fluctuating, the highest one, at $1 = 177 BsF, for everyone else. Regardless of which one you are willing to get your USD from, you still need a chavista if you want to exchange, say the entire asset portfolio of a bank.Clever operator Mr EscotetIf you happen to be Mr Escotet (pictured), you are not going to print in press releases your bank's book value at the highest rate of exchange, but at the lowest, as impossible as it may be to actually justify said value, according to Escotet's own words  (see point 4). So in Mr Escotet's world, and that of the media which reprints without question his every utterance, BANESCO portfolio of assets -whatever the amount in BsF- gets magically converted into USD at the preferential -essential sector only- rate of $1 = 6.3 BsF, thus falsifying true net worth.European bureaucrats and media outlets aren't concerned by such details of course, so Mr Escotet found out about a distressed bank for sale (Abanca) that had gotten more than €16 billion worth of aid from European and Spanish funds, and decided to put a €1 billion bid for it. Placing a bid is not the same as having to fork out the full amount, right? Having won the bid to acquire 88.33% of Abanca, Mr Escotet negotiated payment with Spanish authorites: 40% upfront and five years to clear remaining balance. With that in his pocket, Mr Escotet set out to raise the required €400 million to close the deal, which he did, eventually.Abanca, formerly know as NCG Banco, had assets worth €71 billion in 2011 according to the European Commission. BANESCO, the Venezuelan bank of which Mr Escotet controls an estimated 58%, is worth less than $2 billion, but that was never going to stop Mr Escotet, was it?So the deal, quite brilliant I must admit, went thus:put a bid on a distressed bank from a country whose authorities / media don't get the half of it;inflate true net worth by capitalising on ignorance of three-tier exchange rate;promise that no jobs will be lost should the deal be approved;upon deal approval, negotiate favourable payment terms and raise first installment;upon gaining control of distressed bank, set up a fire sale to recoup initial payment and then some.It must be said, Mr Escotet managed quite the deal. Without putting a coin, he bought on some else's dime a bank several times larger than his BANESCO. He got a foothold in Europe, increased his net worth many times over, in real terms, and managed to dupe Spanish, European authorities, stakeholders and media long enough to get what he wanted.Mr Escotet, whose net worth was recently put in some obscure Chinese report at $2.3 billion, has definitely entered the big leagues. His 58% of BANESCO doesn't quite get to $1 billion, but BANESCO's 88.33% share of Abanca's €71 billion does. Chapeau Mr Escotet.[...]



On Malcolm Rifkind & Jack Straw

2015-02-25T12:23:00.048+00:00

In the maelstrom of bad news from around the world, it would have been easy to have missed the latest UK political scandal, involving two senior and accomplished politicians: Tory Malcolm Rifkind and Labour's Jack Straw. The two share a number of feats, like having held the office of UK Foreign Secretary in the past. These are two grandees. Two fellas that have made it big in UK politics, and have held very important positions. In fact, Rifkind was, until a few hours ago, Chair of the UK Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee. Read. That. Again. Please.Screenshot from Channel 4 DispatchesA team of Channel 4 journalists set up a website (now defunct) about a PR company, called PMR Communications (see image). The site was registered in September 2013, and it referred to a fake, as in non existent, Hong Kong company.Channel 4 journalists sent emails to 12 Members of the UK Parliament, claiming PMR Communications was interested in hiring for its advisory board. Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw, among email recipients, took PMR's bait and replied. Both met with staff of the said fake company, and both were filmed admitting that they were up for it: Rifkind stating that he would require between £5,000 and £8,000 for a day's work, while Straw (Labour) said he would charge £5,000.To be clear, neither actually took the money. But, both boasted about networks of contacts around the world that they could tap into at a moment's notice, and provided specific examples of the sort of access and results they could get (policy changes at national or international level). Said for-sale network is based on past or present jobs (let us not forget that both are current Members of Parliament), and both said that, for a fee, they could be hired by PMR Communications.It took me about two minutes to WHOIS PMR's website, and find out that there is no record of PMR Communications in Hong Kong's register of companies. Rifkind was, at the time, Chair of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, and Straw does not lack contacts, at the highest levels, to have checked the bogus firm. And yet both fell for it. The promise of £5,000 led them to abandon common sense. Straw even admitted, after the fact, that he had "checked" the company with some people in Hong Kong. No wonder the UK keeps dropping the ball in so many issues, when the most prepared and cunning civil servants can't conduct the simplest due diligence checks.Corruption in the UK, as demonstrated by Rifkind and Straw, is as rampant as anywhere else. UK politicos, and bankers, may come from Eton, speak the King's English and keep a facade of intellectual superiority. At the end of the day though, a quick buck, regardless of provenance, is as appealing to them as it is to thuggish chavistas. It is a disgraceful state of affairs, but one that proves that money talks and bullshit -whether dressed in fine tailoring from Saville Row- walks, regardless of ideology, status, education and background. While Rifkind and Straw claim that nothing improper took place, the fact that both readily admitted to be willing to capitalise on their extensive network of contacts, acquired over many years of public service funded by taxpayers, leaves little doubt as to their moral stance towards corruption. Furthermore, Rifkind, a current MP for Kensington & Chelsea, even claimed that he was "self employed", and that "no one pays" him a salary (he must have forgotten the £67,000 he gets as an MP). That utter disregard and contempt for the people that elected him should be used as ca[...]



Saudi can't win oil price war against US shale producers

2015-01-29T17:47:36.442+00:00

London 29.01.2015 – The “swing producer” no more. There was a time not long ago, when Saudi Arabia could call the shots in the global oil market. Its dominant position was due, mainly, to its spare production capacity, its low production costs, its commanding position as the world's largest producer, and the fact that the dynasty that rules the kingdom could modify that country's oil policy at the click of a finger.Over time, other equally powerful players appeared. First it was Russia, which surpassed Saudi as the world's largest producer. Although not a monarchy, the man in charge could also tack and order his minions to change energy policies. Then the US appeared. The production boom caused by shale producers can be easily described as capitalism unleashed. Unlike the other two, a myriad of independent private companies, varying in size, got onto the oil business, catapulting production numbers, and getting the US overall output ahead of both Russia and Saudi.So now there are three “swing producers”, with quite different economic realities. Saudi has decided to “let the market” set oil prices. Increase of previous years, to over $100 levels, was due to a combination of factors, perhaps the most overlooked one being that oil became a store of value commodity. Aside from a spike in demand associated with growth in emerging markets, futures trading were buoyed by billions of dollars looking for shelter, which fueled an ever increasing price trend that wasn't necessarily demand-driven. As the saying goes, there's nothing more cowardly than money, and so the billions that were pumped in have either taken flight, or changed positions, offer and demand are now the drop's culprits. The market is oversupplied. Nearly all producers are countering lost income by increasing output, which adds to the glut. Stockpiles are at an all time high in most places. There's talk of players hoarding oil in tankers, expecting to turn a quick buck when prices rebound. Adding to the glut, is the fact that consumption in China, and Europe is decreasing, while Japan's chronic stagnation further weakens demand. While this is happening, the US Dollar has strengthened, which is another factor that pushes prices down. The US Federal Reserve, with its quantitative easing (QE) and low interest rates, has contributed in no small part to the shale boom. Europe, in the meantime, is suffering its own economic woes. Mario Draghi's recent QE announcements saw the Euro taking a beating against other currencies. Switzerland's Central Bank decision to un-peg value of its currency against the Euro, followed by Denmark's decision to cut interest rates, piled on the drama. Then, Grexit fears, now that Greeks have voted into office someone who wants to “renegotiate” sovereign debt terms, is creating more volatility in the Eurozone, while undermining trust in its economies' capacity to spur growth.Russia is having to deal with a different set of cards. Imposed international sanctions, after de facto annexation of Crimea, have caused the Ruble to lost over a third of its value. Oil income has dropped dramatically. Further sanctions are being discussed in Brussels. China is watching this developing scenario with great concern. The two nations border is thousands of miles long. Potential instability in Russia could spill over. Ever pragmatic, China is increasing oil imports from Russia.This pushes Saudi to a situation of having to defend, simultaneously, its market share against two of the world's three [...]



Je suis Charlie

2015-02-25T12:31:22.333+00:00

Yesterday's attack surprised most around the civilised world. What surprises me, judging the massive outpour of support and empathy, is indeed that most seem to have been surprised by the ghastly attack on Charlie Hebdo. It's as if 9/11, or 7/7 and 11-M never happened. As if ISIS doesn't exist. As if Putin didn't just invade Ukraine and annexed Crimea under the very noses of the entire European continent. As if China hasn't been running roughshod over Tibet or the Uyghurs. As if the world's largest democracy hasn't suffered enough at the hands of radical members of the world's second largest Muslim population. As if Syria and it's 200,000+ killed were in a different galaxy, or Mugabe was a cartoon character, and Che just a companion of Mafalda. As if attacks on civilisation weren't a regular ocurrence.Shocking it is that the general public in Europe, from whose lands individuals like Hitler, Mussolini, and organizations like the IRA or ETA have emerged, are surprised by the fundamentalists that killed 12 freedom fighters hours ago. How quickly they seem to have forgotten the miseries and despair of old. It is easy to feel safe in a place like Paris, or London, easy to live with a wholly misplaced sense of security, as if exempt from disgraceful obscurantism and ignorance, which is present in every society. I am Charlie. For over a decade I have been exposing criminal activity from my virtual corner. More often than not I have been derided, mocked, as a fatalistic Kassandra, an unconvincing exaggerator. Almost without fail, people adopt the "it's-not-as-bad-as-you-paint-it" stance, when not absconding to the standard and almost universal self-defeating appeasement mode of "let's-not-confront", mainly to avoid becoming a target of the Frankfurt School thought police, being branded a racist, or worse. Well, tragedies, such as yesterday's, happen, have happened, and will continue to happen no matter what. Appeasement... Chamberlain... The world is faced with a new normal. We thought Europe had overcome hatred of the type. But then again, it just takes a couple of deranged Islamofundamentalists to prove the contrary. Policy makers must understand that ostrich-like, self centered, "all politics are local" BS no longer works, for the beliefs some of the locals have do not conform to established and accepted dogma. The assasins were born and raised in France, is not that they weren't exposed to the beauties and freedoms of civilisation. Those very freedoms, and tolerance towards the other, have brought us to a point where we must accept to live with such fanatics in our midst. We can wish fundamentalism away all we like, alas it is here, at the very core of our societies, reminding us, unfortunately at regular intervals, that it is part of our polity.I bet no one at Charlie Hebdo ever thought their ideas would cost so much. I can, comparingly in an insignificant way, attest that I had never thought that exposing criminals, and their chavista counterparts, could cause so much hatred, and endanger the wellbeing of my family. But that's the thing, one can't imagine how the other is going to react, because one would never behave like that. We do not share their beliefs. We couldn't care less about our own deities, let alone theirs. No one at Charlie Hebdo ever thought it'd become a statistic, alas it takes a particular type of statistic to get the Leviathan -rather comfy with its inertia and dismissive stance- moving, at which point tragedy has [...]