In another twist in the ongoing saga of Hugo Chavez ceding sovereign matters to Cuba, El Nacional reported on 17 July that the new electronic IDs will be handled by a branch of a Cuban "technology" university, called ALBET, which in turn has subcontracted Dutch multinational Gemalto's 100% owned Mexican subsidiary -to the tune of $40,500,000- for the provision of 6 million e-IDs. ALBET's contract with Venezuela dates from 2005, according to Spain's El Pais. More worrying still, Ramiro Valdés, one of communist Cuba most feared party apparatchiks, is meant to be behind the contract.
But Gemalto, that as a publicly traded Dutch company is the only party to this deal that has to operate according to some transparency rules, has refused to answer any of my requests for information. In fact, there's nothing in Gemalto's last three years annual reports indicative of a contract between its fully owned Mexican subsidiary and ALBET. The $40,500,000 that allegedly exchanged hands aren't reflected anywhere. Below, the emails that I have sent thus far.
From: Alek Boyd
Date: 21 July 2011 12:47:29 GMT+01:00
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Re Gemalto's provision of IDs in Venezuela
Dear Mr Bonnot,
My name is Alek Boyd, Venezuelan blogger based in London, who has called your office on a couple of occasions regarding an alleged contract between a Gemalto subsidiary (Mexico) and a Cuban agent for the provision of IDs to the government of my country. Your name was given to me by a kind secretary in your office in London (Vicky).
I should be most grateful if you could read the message below, and provide information as per who may be the correct person to contact regarding issues raised. Furthermore, I'd like to add to the questions below, the following:
- Why would a multinational, publicly traded company, like Gemalto, not contract their services directly with the Venezuelan government? Why use, instead, a dodgy Cuban intermediary?
Dear Mr Abdine,
El Nacional, which is one of Venezuela's leading newspapers, reported on 17 July [link], that Gemalto de Mexico had been contracted by a Cuban company called ALBET, to the tune of USD $40,500,000, for the provision of IDs to the government of Venezuela. The alleged contract between Gemalto de Mexico and ALBET can be read, in Spanish, following this link:
The contract is meant to have been signed on 20 August 2008. Given the amount of the contract, and the sensible nature of the services provided, one would be forgiven for thinking that Gemalto would boast about it in its annual reports. However, I could not find any indication in Gemalto's annual reports of 2008, 2009, or indeed 2010, about the contract between ALBET and Gemalto de Mexico, which is described in your reports as Gemalto's 100% owned subsidiary.
This of course raises a few issues, given that Gemalto is a publicly traded company. To be frank, we Venezuelans couldn't care less about how Gemalto conducts his business, where or how declares its income, where or how pays its taxes, etc. What we do care about is the fact that Gemalto de Mexico seems to have been subcontracted by a Cuban joint in violation to Venezuela's legislation, and, as a consequence, may have received, in case the contract is legit and has been acted upon, millions of dollars of Venezuelans tax payers' money illegally.
Yesterday I called your office here in London to ask for verifications. After a short explanation, a kind secretary, called Vicky, replied by saying that "someone senior would get back to me, either by phone or email." Alas, as of this hour, no one has.
Therefore, I should be most grateful if you could indicate the name, and contact details of a Gemalto representative that could answer a few questions about the issues raised above, namely:
1- Did Gemalto de Mexico, represented by Messrs. Arnaud Jean Loic and Martin Djunte Ghomsi, signed a contract with ALBET?
2- If it did, what due diligence was made by Gemalto de Mexico with regards to whether ALBET had the power to enter into contracts for the provision of IDs to the government of Venezuela?
3- If it did, how much has Gemalto de Mexico received to date (in USD), as per contractual clauses?
4- If it did, what has Gemalto de Mexico delivered, as per contractual clauses?
UPDATE, 2 August 2011: a comment by Rodrigo has pointed me in the direction of what he defines as common practice: i.e. European companies paying bribes to officials through dodgy intermediaries. That could be the reason why Gemalto did not enter into a contract directly with the Chavez regime. Rodrigo cites three Panamanian companies (Billingsley Global Corporation, Ferdell Business Inc., and Selbor International Inc.) involved in some inexplicable payments on a €46 million deal of Germany's Bundesdruckerei with Venezuela (reported here by German media). Ferdell and Selbor share the same directors (Thays Herrera de Salas, Mariela de Cristi, and Eligio Rodriguez).
But that's not the issue. Gemalto's ADR are traded in the US, and its shares are also traded in Paris' stock exchange. Perhaps it's time to blow the whistle with American and European authorities?