The front man of the plot that looted Petróleos de Venezuela moved 1,144 million dollars in Andorra | International
He is 58 years old, was born in Caracas and presides over an enigmatic company that “searches for suppliers and strategic alliances”, Inverdt Asesores de Negocios. With this bland profile, the businessman Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello has revealed himself as a key player in the plot that looted 2,000 million dollars [unos 1.805 millones de euros] of his country's main state-owned firm, Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).
Oblivious to the media flash of the political leaders of the network -the former Chavista Vice Ministers of Energy Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado-, Rodríguez Cabello, a public accountant by profession, played a key role in the laundering mechanics of this group that charged a 10% commission for opening the door to the energy giant's awards.
The businessman managed an opaque racket of 11 accounts in the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), where the plot hid his loot, which moved 1,144.6 million dollars between 2007 and 2015, according to a confidential report from the Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit (Uifand) to which EL PAÍS has had access.
Considered by Andorran investigators as the figurehead of Diego Salazar, cousin of the former Chavista Minister of Energy, former president of PDVSA and former ambassador to the UN, Rafael Ramírez, Rodríguez Cabello camouflaged his identity in the BPA through the protective cloak of a dozen Panamanian instrumental companies. Only one account was listed in his name.
The straw man of the looting plot resorted to one of the hermetic pieces of his mercantile gear to move 616 million dollars. Through the account in the name of the company Highland Assets Corp, Rodríguez Cabello entered 121.3 million from the Chinese engineering Sinohydro Corporation Ltd, a giant with a presence in 72 countries that was awarded two phases of the La Cabrera thermoelectric plant in the Venezuelan state of Aragua. The work was inaugurated in 2014 and cost 603 million.
The companies China Machinary Engineering Co (70.5 million dollars), China Camc Engineering Co. (51.7), Shandong Kerui Petroleum Equipment (17.1), Cici Venezuela (25.1) and Yutong Hong Kong Limited (11.8) also watered this account in the BPA that the straw man of the network opened in 2007.
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The transactions were framed in the so-called Great Volume, a 20,000 million dollar agreement sealed in 2010 between Venezuela and China that allowed engineering companies from the Asian giant to obtain contracts from the Latin American country. The corrupt group allegedly squeezed the treaty to make cash.
The account that entered 616 million Asian signatures transferred 10 million in 2009 to a deposit in Switzerland in the name of Omar Farías, a Venezuelan insurance magnate charged in Andorra for belonging to the plot.
the luxury train
The figurehead also derived part of the booty to pay for the network's luxury train. And it is that one of his accounts was used to pay bills worth $604,034 from the Four Seasons George V hotel in Paris between 2009 and 2010. Diego Salazar, cousin of former minister Rafael Ramírez, would have enjoyed his stays in this establishment with ample suites with views of the Eiffel Tower and three restaurants that total five Michelin stars, according to the documents. “The client sends 270,000 euros (300,348 dollars) for lodging [en el Four Seasons de París] in August”, picks up a 2009 email from a BPA employee.
Diego Salazar's figurehead also paid bills of $307,889 at the French wine store Lavinia and $553,923 at the Ritz hotel from this account.
The connection with the king of insurance
The analysis of the second account in the BPA of Rodríguez Cabello, who received 274.6 million under the shield of a Panamanian company, reveals the leading role played in nurturing this deposit by the company Surplus Sociedad de Corretaje de Reaseguros. Between 2011 and 2012, this firm transferred to the lender of the plot that plundered PDVSA 52.8 million from the Netherlands Antilles. The reason: the alleged advice of Rodríguez Cabello for the "placement of international reinsurance risk."
And from the same Caribbean islands, a manna of 26.3 million from the insurance intermediary company Cedisa Consultores Inc. also reached the front man of the network. Between 2011 and 2012, this firm was awarded nine contracts from Pdivc, the oil company's insurance subsidiary, according to anti-laundering investigators.
The insurance companies also provided succulent funds for Rodríguez Cabello's third account in the BPA by volume of dollars. Under the name of Antigua Omega, the figurehead's deposit collected 217.7 million between 2008 and 2012. And its main patrons were the insurance companies CGA LTDA INC (203.7 million) and ISB Sociedad CS, SA (14), a firm represented by Farías and Rodríguez Cabello himself.
The front man told the BPA that from this last account he transferred 3.3 million in 2008 to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), a World Bank agency that fights poverty to acquire a location in Venezuela for the financial institution.
Rodríguez Cabello also resorted to another of his opaque accounts in the BPA ―the one masked under the commercial veil of DT Investment and Consulting CV― to collect 9.5 million from the Asian China Machinery Engineering Corp. It was in 2012 and the money corresponded to a commission for a power plant with a capacity of 241,335 KW in Zulia (Venezuela). His network received "5% of the total amount of the project less taxes", as justified by the lender to the bank in reference to this project estimated at 508 million.
Rodríguez Cabello was part of a convoluted concealment mechanism, according to investigators. Through some thirty companies with tentacles in tax havens such as Switzerland or Belize, the flow of funds from his organization flowed, ending up in Andorra, a country of 78,000 inhabitants shielded until 2017 by bank secrecy.
The figurehead was not alone in his financial skein at the BPA. Rodríguez Cabello appeared as a representative in one of his deposits with the Venezuelan native of Spain Estíbaliz Basoa, 50 years old. Her account entered 6.4 million.
Likewise, the Caracas engineer José Enrique Luongo, 69, accompanied the prestambre in one of the accounts that deposited 21 million.
Among the thirty defendants in Andorra, including Basoa and Luongo, the former Vice Minister of Energy and Petroleum in the first stage of the Hugo Chávez government (1999-2013), Nervis Villalobos, stands out, who, through a dozen deposits, moved 124 million in the European country.
Arrested in Madrid for a reason other than plundering by PDVSA, the United States requested his temporary extradition, but it was not authorized. The Venezuelan Prosecutor's Office places the former hierarch as the head of an organization to which Javier Alvarado also belonged, the former deputy minister of Energy and Petroleum and director between 2007 and 2010 of the also state-owned Corporación Eléctrica Nacional (Corpoelec). Alvarado managed 46 million in the Pyrenean Principality through a convoluted financial network.
The public ministry of Venezuela raises the looting of PDVSA to 4,200 million dollars.
The Andorran judge investigating the case has also prosecuted a dozen former directors and former employees of the BPA, the financial institution of the small European country chosen by the network to hide its loot. The bank was intervened in March 2015 for an alleged crime of money laundering. According to the investigators, it opened dozens of accounts to the plot without noticing the status of its members as Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), personalities who, due to their ties to the Administration, must undergo special control to prevent money laundering.
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