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Switzerland / U.S. Justice move against PDVSA

Brazil's Estadao reported yesterday that Switzerland Prosecutor's Office will send to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) banking information related to payment of $160 million worth of bribes to five PDVSA officials. The report goes on to claim that identities of PDVSA executives involved have been kept, and that a Swiss Federal Tribunal ruled against attempts -by Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera- to stop Switzerland from sharing financial information with DoJ.

There are two very interesting aspects here:

  1. The ruling states that DoJ requested Switzerland, on December 10, 2014, to submit bank records in the context of a probe for money laundering, bribery of foreign officials and other offenses, related to the purchase of turbine equipment in Venezuela due to the power crisis at the end of 2009. An emergency decree issued by Hugo Chavez was used to eliminate the standard procedures for tendering, bidding and contracting by Venezuelan state-run companies.
     
  2. Documents and financial data from January 1, 2009, are of interest for said U.S. criminal investigation. Sharing such evidence is therefore not objectionable in terms of time, i.e. no statute of limitation applies. Swiss bank accounts are therefore clearly related to the foreign criminal investigation.

Hugo Chavez's emergency decree benefited just three companies:

  1. OVARB, related to Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera;
     
  2. KCT, related to Blas Herrera;
     
  3. Derwick Associates, related to Alejandro Betancourt, Francisco Convit, Pedro Trebbau et al.

This site first exposed in June 2017 the manner in which those contracts were awarded: contratación directa.

A separate DoJ probe determined that Fidel Ramirez, brother of PDVSA CEO Rafael Ramirez, was a recipient of bribes from KCT.

Another DoJ probe ended up indicting Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera, both of whom pleaded guilty, on bribe payments and money laundering charges.

A third, unrelated criminal investigation in Andorra, determined that Fidel Ramirez, Reinaldo Ramirez (brothers of Rafael Ramirez), Diego Salazar (first cousin of Rafael Ramirez), Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado (close associates of Rafael Ramirez), all received bribes in relation to awarding procurement contracts to companies. This probe has evidenced that Derwick Associates paid millions of dollars worth of bribes to Nervis Villalobos using Swiss bank accounts.

In yet another, separate DoJ criminal probe, Francisco Convit, one of the main partners in Derwick Associates, was indicted with money laundering charges. DoJ recently declared Convit a fugitive.

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