[Added: Do read the latest here in Spanish, or follow my TL on Twitter] Insistent rumours had been making the rounds for some time about the alleged sale of El Universal, Venezuela's oldest and last standing independent newspaper. The sale, for an alleged €90 million, was confirmed this week. The new director is meant to be Jesús Abreu Anselmi, an obscure individual with a rather interesting past link to Gustavo Gomez Lopez's Banco Latino and, more recently, to turncoat -and former Gomez Lopez partner- Gustavo Cisneros. Abreu is also brother of Maestro Abreu, director of world-renowned Venezuelan music system, El Sistema. Abreu did very little to establish his credibility and calm fears about ultimate controlling party, when he pointed at Spain's Epalisticia S.L. as the group behind the purchase. For Epalisticia S.L. is a €3,500 company, which started operations less than a year ago.
Epalisticia S.L. has one partner: Tecnobreaks Inc, in turn another €3,500 shell incorporated last August. And Tecnobreaks Inc's sole partner? Epalisticia S.L. Note added 13.07.2014: Tecnobreaks is also a Panamanian company, whose president -Carlos Odín Velazco Cuello- admitted that he did not know that his company was involved in the purchase of El Universal.
Epalisticia's first sole partner (the one prior to Tecnobreaks Inc), was Mediterranean Search SL, which, surprisingly, is a shareholder of Banesco Holding Latinoamerica (holding co behing Juan Carlos Escotet's Banesco bank). Mediterranean Search is one of hundreds of shell companies controlled by law firm Cuatrecasas, one of Spain's biggest and firm of choice of the Boliburgeoisie:
The company's domains, both Epalisticia.com and Epalisticia.es, were registered by a Miami-based company on 10 March 2014. After being exposed, the also Miami-based designer of Epalisticia's website and logos deleted her involvement from both her website and Behance.net (we have kept copies, so don't bother...).
It is very clear that Epalisticia is nothing but a front, with no credibility or track record whatsoever. Its claim of having "over $1 billion" in capital investments is just a totally unsupported joke. And did I mention that according to current legislation, it is illegal for foreign corporations to own newspapers in Venezuela?
Its directors -Eduardo Lopez de la Osa, Jose Antonio de la Torre*, and Jose Luis Basanta**- are totally unknown, obscure people, without track record, neither expertise in media, nor in successful investments, anywhere. Epalisticia's email address is dysfunctional, and no one answers its phone number.
So how does Abreu expect that anyone will believe a word he says going forward? How can Abreu and his paymasters expect that El Universal will not follow the fate of Ultimas Noticias, Globovision and El Nacional, with such obscurity surrounding the identity of its new owners? How can El Universal's new controlling party expect that its recently formed shell, without verifiable track record, headed by bankrupted fellas, and run from a flat in Madrid will be taken seriously? As this farce gathers pace, Andres Mata, former owner of El Universal and someone who could very well identify buying parties, fails to answer repeated requests for comment. I wonder why that is... Do check my Twitter account @alekboyd, as I will be posting further findings there.
*Jose Antonio de la Torre was director of a company called Torreangulo Arte Grafico SA. Interestingly, this was a small, family-run, printing business that went bust not long ago. In fact, administrators were appointed by Madrid's Mercantile Court No. 3 in May 2013, due to insolvency:
**Jose Luis Basanta Otero is involved with three companies: Epalisticia, Geostancia and Alter Capital (the latter involved in bringing Mexican capital into Spain). The first two of three companies in which Basanta Otero is involved have a combined capital of less than €10,000, and all three operate from a flat in Madrid. Basanta Otero is also related to something called Neopharm Obesity, a subsidiary of Landsteiner Scientific, in which Mexican multibillionaire Carlos Slim is purportedly a stakeholder.