DOJ to expose Glencore corruption in Venezuela

The U.S. Department of Justice’s has subpoenaed Glencore, requesting transaction records in Venezuela since 2007. Glencore operations in Venezuela should really start with a “Who is Roberto Wellisch?” In his native Argentina, what Wellisch does for a living is called coimas-gate, a Glencore specialty. Hugo Chavez and Nestor Kirchner set up bilateral trade agreements, whereby Argentinean companies would export hundreds of millions worth of stuff to Venezuela. Wellisch was part of the package. His role? To "secure deals and payments" for all participating Argentinean companies, in exchange for 15%. Kirchner’s decision to place him there would have been retributed somehow, but since this is Venezuela and Argentina we’re talking, nothing ever happened.

By the time that scandal surfaced, Wellisch was already established. Journalist Clavel Rangel reported that Wellisch appeared in Venezuela’s resource-rich Guayana region around 1977, and started acting as Glencore’s man sometime in 2006. Corrupt dealing in iron ore, bauxite, and aluminium involving Glencore have been reported ever since, here, and in other places.

But that’s not all Glencore did in chavista land, where corruption springs eternal, did it? Considering Wellisch’s other partners, it was only a matter of time to dabble into oil and gas with PDVSA.

There's more of course, like crude oil shipments to Reliance in India where Glencore appears as intermediary.

Glencore has a new Venezuelan partner: Manuel Chinchilla. Chinchilla runs a mum-and-dad network of offshore shells from Caracas all the way to New Zealand. Crucially, Chinchilla has been “chosen” by CAMIMPEG, an energy trading company controlled by Venezuelan narcos military. When PDVSA confronted the real prospect of losing every last international asset, due to expropriation policies, Maduro had the great idea of creating a parallel structure, so that all PDVSA assets could be transferred free and clear to CAMIMPEG. Since the military are the ones sustaining his regime, Maduro gave full control of CAMIMPEG to them. This was done before passing a decree, on April this year, giving absolute control of PDVSA, and all energy matters and resources, to Manuel Quevedo, a military general.

Esmeralda da SilvaChinchilla's little sister signed a contract with PDVSA's (Ysmel Serrano), whereby his shell (Chemplast Steel Industries Metals Ltd) is to bring to market some 28 million barrels of crude oil, close to $2 billion worth. Another one of his shells, Southern Procurement Services Ltd., allegedly will increase production in some oil fields.

Chinchilla, and sister Esmeralda, will surely achieve what multinationals with thousands of workers have failed to. But their deals, with Glencore in particular, seems to have caught the attention of U.S. authorities.

The news could not have hit CAMIMPEG, Chinchilla, Maduro, et al at a worse time. Sources familiar with the new military regime at PDVSA claim that Maduro is even considering, to woo investors, to amend Venezuela's hydrocarbons' legislation, which forces prospective partners to grant majority stakes to PDVSA, or its associated vehicles, in energy related ventures. With DoJ on its tail, it is likely that Glencore will be forced to reveal their completely corrupt operation in Venezuela. That can only bring more trouble to Maduro et al.

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