In a previous post I revealed how Venezuela had basically surrendered to Cuba responsibilities related to citizenry identification issues. In doing so, the Chavez regime effectively gave access to sensible personal identification data of all Venezuelan citizens to Cuba (through ALBET) and, consequently, to whomever ALBET decides to subcontract. However, Germany's Bundesdruckerei is not the only multinational that got into the dodgy deal. For there's also Netherlands-headquartered GEMALTO, which got a $40 million contract through a Mexican subsidiary (Gemalto Mexico S.A. de C.V.) on 20 August 2008, for the provision of six (6) million polycarbonate ID cards with chips.
Given that more than five years have come to pass, it is worth asking: whatever happened with the deal?
As seen in the document, Messrs. Arnaud Jean Loïc Laurans and Martin Djunte Ghomsi signed the contract on behalf of GEMALTO in Havana, with ALBET's representative Antonio de Jesus Romillo Tarke. LinkedIn's information about Arnauld Laurans seems to have changed (no association with GEMALTO), although, as Bundesdruckerei's Joerg Baumgartl, he is associated to a couple of companies in Panama (with GEMALTO's Francesc Xavier Ortodo), who knows for what purposes. Ortodo, together with Carolina Escobar, pitched GEMALTO's cards to the chavista regime in April 2007, the signature with ALBET in Havana was to be the beginning of the deal.
Sources inside ONIDEX have recently leaked a report about GEMALTO's smart ID new cards. The report reveals a number of failings:
- Delamination in crucial areas;
- Cracks above chip area;
- The area (inlay) where chip is located is clearly visible, and breaks easily, which affects functionality and durability of chip;
- Chip funtionality issues after lamination and personalization. Chips' quality does not meet international durability standards (10 years).
GEMALTO got $40.5 million for its faulty cards. The question is: have these been replaced?
Consulted ONIDEX sources claim that the original procurement contract between GEMALTO and ALBET was never concluded satisfactorily, meaning some folks got away with $40.5 million worth of Venezuean taxpayer money without procuring what was intended and agreed upon. Is that the reason why Laurans no longer appears to be GEMALTO's Latam VP? This deal seems to be just another exhibit of chavismo's rampant corruption. Multinational corporations, whose stocks are traded around the world, engaged in all kinds of dodgy triangulations, failing to report multimillion deals with Venezuela. Spain was the designated jurisdiction to settle (amicably) any disputes related to the deal. Has Venezuela issued any legal proceedings against GEMALTO? Unlikely, given clause 14.5 which exonerates GEMALTO of any responsibility if some conditions in Annex 1 aren't met.
But the deal also has clauses, such as 14.6, that establishes that in the case ALBET gets approval for extensions to the proyect GEMALTO will offer "utility margins" -read kickbacks- of up to 20% of amount of project. Given the circumstances one can only conclude that there must be quite a few multinationals lining up to get such fantastic contracts, no? Get paid, no matter what, no strings attached, and if more deals are to be had, a 20% commission will do, while chavismo picks up the tab. What a disgrace...