The luxurious real estate emporium of the looters of Petróleos de Venezuela: 21 homes valued at 52 million dollars | International
Luxury homes, magazine penthouses and apartments in dream skyscrapers. The plot of former Chavista leaders that looted 2,000 million dollars [unos 1.889 millones de euros] of Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA) took over a real estate empire valued at 52 million that included 21 exclusive properties, according to a confidential report from the Financial Intelligence Unit of Andorra (Uifand) to which EL PAÍS has had access.
The network formalized most of its investments (17) while carrying out the looting of the energy company (2007-2012), as communicated to the banks by the organization's alleged front man, businessman Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello.
Through a bunch of instrumental companies (without activity), the supposed straw man bought, according to his story, 19 exclusive homes in Venezuela between 2008 and 2014. These are properties with prices ranging between $304,000 and $5.5 million. .
Rodríguez Cabello used the parapet of his skein of 11 accounts in the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA) ―where he moved 1,144 million dollars between 2007 and 2015― to camouflage the trail of money that ended up in the brick, according to the confidential document of the Uifand, dated November 2022.
The Campo Norte building in Caracas was the network's favorite. Through an intricate corporate network, the group acquired at least six homes in this complex between 2008 and 2012. The most expensive apartment cost 5.5 million dollars and was purchased through the instrumental company Inversiones y Asesorías Aditus CA.
The alleged front man also turned to this firm to acquire a real estate package valued at seven million and consisting of two apartments and as many parking spaces in the same residential complex in 2011, according to what Rodríguez Cabello communicated to the bank.
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In addition, the straw man ordered from his financial institution, the BPA, three transfers for more than five million between 2008 and 2012 to acquire three other apartments in the Campo Norte building in Caracas. One of them was acquired through a transfer of 1.5 million to an account in Switzerland.
Bank for Reconstruction and Development offices
Rodríguez Cabello informed the bank that a shipment of 3.3 million ordered in September 2008 to a Wells Fargo account in the United States was part of the acquisition of offices in Venezuela of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), a an organization linked to the World Bank, which fights against poverty, and from which this newspaper has tried without success to obtain its version.
In 2007, when the looting of the Venezuelan energy company began, the plot also allegedly bought four offices for 2.5 million on the eighth floor of the Torre Edicampo building in Caracas. The operation was arranged through a transfer to the company Interquimica Ltd at the Safra National Bank in New York.
Rodríguez Cabello told the bank that he purchased an apartment in the Villa Lucía building in Caracas in January 2008 for $629,000. In the purchase and sale contract, the Venezuelan originally from Spain, Estíbaliz Basoa, appeared alongside him. And, through the company Inversiones Powerball 550 CA, represented by the front man, he acquired, in May 2009, a $750,000 penthouse in another residential complex in the Venezuelan capital.
The tracing of the transactions also shows how the plunderers of the public company bought a $600,000 apartment in the Torre Mar Residences Building in Caracas in June 2009. And another property worth 2.2 million in the Peña Blanca complex in the capital. The operation was forged in September 2012 through the company Inversiones y Asesorías Belloto.
Rodríguez Cabello not only used his financial network in Andorra - a country shielded until 2017 by banking secrecy - to acquire luxurious properties. He also resorted to his secret financial scheme to deposit funds from the sale of real estate. Thus, he collected 1.7 million in December 2008 for the sale of an office in the JWM Tower in Chacao (Caracas). And three months later, he received 1.2 million from a Deutsche Bank account in the Netherlands for the sale of another office in the same administrative complex.
$500,000 property for “Silvia in Argentina”
Buying properties for third parties was another practice. Rodríguez Cabello supposedly acquired a home for a woman in August 2009. “I am attaching the order for a transfer for $500,000 for the purchase of an apartment with a parking space for Mrs. Silvia F. in Argentina,” the man explained by email. straw man from the looting organization to a BPA employee.
The ruse was also used to give in 2010 a $950,000 apartment in the Parque Residencial Campo de Oro building in Caracas to the model who represented Venezuela in the 2007 Miss World pageant, Claudia Paola Suárez Fernández, as revealed by this newspaper. .
The next investment bet of the network that PDVSA looted leads to the One Thousand Museum skyscraper in Miami. It is an architectural prodigy 216 meters high, in a futuristic style, which was designed by the Iranian Zaha Hadid and houses a helipad, glass elevators and a state-of-the-art aquatic center. Enjoying one of its 100 residences costs up to 20 million.
The plot of former Chavista leaders acquired two properties in this Miami skyscraper for more than 21 million, which also attracted the attention of celebrities such as David Beckham.
Through 10% commissions to Chinese companies that later received awards from PDVSA, the network amassed a succulent fortune that it managed through thirty complex companies located in tax havens such as Switzerland or Belize.
The looters, among whom were leaders of the first Chavista wave, such as the former Vice Ministers of Energy of Venezuela Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, camouflaged their million-dollar commissions under the cover of advisory and consulting jobs that — according to investigators — did not exist.
Since 2015, an Andorran court has been unraveling the dark scheme. In 2018, a judge from this small principality prosecuted businessman Diego Salazar, cousin of former minister Rafael Ramírez, for money laundering in a banking establishment.
Along with him, the oil company executive Francisco Jiménez Villarroel is also indicted in Andorra – where the network brought in 2,000 million between 2007 and 2012; the company's former lawyer Luis Carlos de León Pérez; the Venezuelan insurance magnate Omar Farías; Salazar's front man, Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello; and Salazar's attorney, José Luis Zabala.
In parallel, the Andorran justice system also prosecuted in 2018 a dozen former directors of the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), the financial institution chosen by the corrupt plot to hide its loot and which was intervened in March 2015 for allegedly acting as a laundering of funds from criminal groups.
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