The network that looted PDVSA gave a million dollar apartment to a miss Venezuela | International

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Claudia Paola Suárez Fernández, in an image from her social networks.claudiasuarezf

The model who represented Venezuela in the 2007 Miss World pageant, Claudia Paola Suárez Fernández, was feted by the plot that looted $2 billion from her country's main state firm, Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

Businessman Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello, alleged front man of the network, gave this beauty queen a $950,000 apartment in the Parque Residencial Campo de Oro building in Caracas in 2010, according to a confidential report from the Intelligence Unit. Financial Institution of Andorra (Uifand) to which EL PAÍS has had access.

Through an instrumental Panamanian company (without activity), the alleged straw man of the corrupt organization transferred the amount of the property to an account at Bank Sarasin and Co in Switzerland to the Venezuelan couple who sold the property. Rodríguez Cabello sent the money on February 11, 2010 from one of his accounts in the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), the entity chosen by his plot to hide his loot. “I am attaching the support for the transfer of $950,000 for the purchase of a property for Mrs. Claudia Suárez,” the network's front man indicated by email in April 2010 to a senior manager of the Andorran financial institution, according to the documents.

When analyzing the transaction, the investigators of the small Pyrenean principality – where a court has been prosecuting thirty members of the organization since 2018 for money laundering – were surprised that this member of the network paid the amount for the apartment and that in the contract only Suárez Fernández appears as the buyer. “It is suspicious that Highland (front company) ordered the transfer, but that neither this company nor Rodríguez Cabello appear in the purchase and sale contract,” Uifand agents warn in a confidential report dated November 2022.

Passport given to the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA) by the model Claudia Paola Suárez when she opened her account on March 4, 2009.
Passport given to the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA) by the model Claudia Paola Suárez when she opened her account on March 4, 2009.THE COUNTRY

The purchase and sale contract is signed by the Venezuelan couple who own the apartment and Claudia Paola Suárez. The document establishes the price of 5,795,000 bolivars. A sum that, at the exchange rate on that date, corresponded to 1.3 million dollars. This newspaper has tried without success to locate the model and the sellers of the property to obtain their version.

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The connection of the representative of Venezuela in the 2007 Miss World pageant with the plot that looted PDVSA is not new. Suárez Fernández opened an account at the BPA to deposit one million dollars in March 2009, as this newspaper revealed.

The model then informed the bank that she had a business relationship with the companies High Rise and Red Bouquet controlled by another member of the plot, Diego Salazar, cousin of the former Chavista Minister of Energy, former president of PDVSA and former ambassador to the UN, Rafael Ramírez. And in the know your client of the model (know your client, in English), a kind of third degree to which the entity subjects its clients to explain the origin of their funds, assured that he wanted to transfer quarterly to the Principality $500,000 of funds whose origin lay in “insurance” and “administration”.

Luxury skyscrapers in Miami

The tracking of the transactions of the main network operator in Andorra – where it moved 1,144 million dollars between 2007 and 2015 – reveals that Rodríguez Cabello resorted to his opaque financial racket in the Pyrenean principality to acquire a luxurious apartment in the One skyscraper in 2014. Thousand Museum in Miami valued at 5.3 million.

Designed by the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016 and famous for designing works such as the London Olympic Aquatic Center, the property chosen by the alleged looter of the Venezuelan oil giant is framed in a building 216 meters high and 62 levels with views Biscayne Boulevard. It houses 100 residences in a “six-star luxury” complex with a rooftop helipad, glass elevators, a double-height aquatic center, a sculptural terrace with a pool and solarium, according to the Miami Residential real estate agency website.

To acquire the property, number 1702 of the One Thousand Museum complex, Rodríguez Cabello ordered two transfers worth 2.1 million in 2014 from his financial network in the BPA to an account in the US Bank of America of the Chicago company. Title Insurance, according to the documents. These are two payments on account of the total amount of this property whose contract was signed on October 12, 2014.

Image of the 'One Thousand Museum' skyscraper in Miami, where businessman Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello acquired an apartment for 5.3 million.
Image of the 'One Thousand Museum' skyscraper in Miami, where businessman Luis Mariano Rodríguez Cabello acquired an apartment for 5.3 million. 'One Thousand Museum', by Zaha Hadid Architects (Miami, USA)

In 2019, Rodríguez Cabello managed to avoid the extradition request requested from Spain by the Venezuelan authorities who accuse him of corruption. The active financial operator was not the only member of the plot who was seduced by the architectural excellence of this exclusive Miami building that has attracted the attention of celebrities such as David Beckham, who acquired a penthouse in it in 2020 for 18 million, according to Vanity Fair.

Diego Salazar, now imprisoned for corruption in a Venezuelan prison, also bought a 15.3 million property in the One Thousand Museum in 2014 through the holding company Worldwide traders line.

With well-oiled machinery, the network that looted the Venezuelan oil company charged 10% commissions to Chinese companies that subsequently received awards from PDVSA. The team operated between 2007 and 2012 and included former Venezuelan Vice Ministers of Energy Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado among its ranks. Through thirty Panamanian fictitious companies, created by the Andorran bank, and with accounts in tax havens such as Switzerland or Belize, the organization moved the funds that ended up in Andorra, a country of 78,000 inhabitants shielded until 2017 by secrecy. banking.

The plunderers hid their million-dollar commissions under the cover of advisory and consultancy work - sometimes supported by a simple sheet of paper with several explanatory paragraphs - which - according to investigators - did not exist.

An Andorran court has been investigating the colossal looting since 2015. The small Pyrenean principality prosecuted Salazar in 2018 for money laundering in a banking establishment. And, along with him, the oil company executive Francisco Jiménez Villarroel is also on trial in Andorra; the company's former lawyer Luis Carlos de León Pérez; the Venezuelan insurance magnate Omar Farías and Rodríguez Cabello himself, among others.

The justice system of the European country also prosecuted in 2018 a dozen former directors of the 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 launderer of funds for criminal groups.

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