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[UPDATED] Libre Abordo: Mex shell controlled by Alex Saab comes to PDVSA / Maduro's rescue

UPDATE 08/05/2020 - 09:55 GMT | Alex Saab adventures into oil aren't new. There was a time when he had to make use of "decent" intermediaries, like Jean Paul Rivas, in energy trading attempts. No more. U.S. Treasury sanctions have pushed PDVSA into Saab's arms. He is no longer toxic. His characteristic stench goes undetected in the company of Nicolas Maduro, Cilia, and Tareck el Aisami: Venezuela's new oil minister. After Rosneft's exit, Saab's shells Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group have become, in less than a quarter, PDVSA's largest and most important trading partners. Internal shipping data from PDVSA shows that Saab's cos have lifted over 26 million barrels of crude. So what's in it for PDVSA?

Our informants recently shared details about a meeting in La Guaira port, attended by Juan Santiago (MULTIOCEAN), Eduardo Aguas (SENAIN), Meylin Marin (CORPOVEX), Rafael Schwartz & Elias Cerdá (AEROCAV), Manuel Muñoz (FOTON), Roxana Mundarain & Alfredo Vetancourt (Libre Abordo), and representatives from Bolipuertos.

To discuss: arrival of vessel AN PING 8, offload, and delivery of 222 semi trailer water tanks (30,000LT), 20 semi trailer water tanks (10,000LT), and one FOTON truck.

ETA of AN PING 8 was 30 April. Shipping agents SENAIN and MULTIOCEAN were to hand over offload ops directly to CORPOVEX. AEROCAV was to act as Libre Abordo agent to check cargo. FOTON was to OK all units, and Alexander Guaramato (Director General in charge of Interior Ministry) to provide, at least, 200 truck drivers. The Strategic Command Operations of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (CEOFANB) was to be notified about the operation to provide security and guarantee safe passage to final destination / client.

Libre Abordo's Caracas office is the address used in the past by Johnson & Johnson. It appears registered in the tax database as Libre Abordo Venezuela C.A. (Quimivenca 22 C.A.) with number J408238365. Needless to say that there is no record of either company in Venezuela's procurement register.

This site reached out to Roxana Mundarain, one of Libre Abordo's representatives. After asking how her contact details were obtained, she passed our request up the chain of command. One Cecilia Aguirre, claiming to be Libre Abordo's PR, got back in touch and claimed the following:

- Libre Abordo SA de CV es una compañía de capital 100% mexicano, con 10 años de experiencia en el sector de comercio exterior. La directora general y accionista mayoritaria es Verónica Esparza García. En el primer semestre de 2019, Libre Abordo firmó un contrato de Ayuda Humanitaria con la Corporación Venezolana de Comercio Exterior (Corpovex), para proveer 210 mil toneladas de maíz blanco y mil camiones cisterna; estos últimos para implementar un programa de distribución de agua en regiones marginadas de Venezuela. Los contratos cumplen plenamente con los lineamientos que estableció el gobierno de Estados Unidos en sus Órdenes Ejecutivas 13850 y 18884 (sic), así como con la Licencia General 4C del Departamento del Tesoro; por lo que de ninguna manera son violatorios de las restricciones norteamericanas impuestas al Gobierno de Venezuela o susceptibles de sanción.

- Libre Abordo arrendó los servicios del buque PING 8 para transportar, desde China y hasta el puerto de La Guaira en Venezuela, 290 tractocamiones, conocidos como chutos, y 10 semi tráiler cisterna, cada uno con capacidad para transportar 30,000 litros de agua. El cargamento arribó el 3 de abril de 2020 y fue el primero de cuatro cargamentos programados para cumplir con los mil camiones cisterna establecidos en el contrato de Ayuda Humanitaria. El segundo embarque arribó también al puerto de La Guaira el pasado viernes 1 de mayo, a bordo del buque Chipolbrok Sun, y en las próximas semanas llegarán dos cargamentos más para completar totalmente la entrega.

- Roxana Mundarain fue colaboradora de la oficina de Libre Abordo en Venezuela. En la actualidad no mantenemos relación laboral con ella.

- Libre Abordo no tiene en la actualidad relación vigente con la firma Elemento Ltd.

- Ni los propietarios ni los directivos de Libre Abordo tienen vínculos o relación alguna con los personajes que mencionas (Alex Saab y Alfredo Vetancourt).

210,000 tonnes of corn and 1,000 water trucks then, from a Mexican company lacking a single example of engagement in humanitarian oil deals, anywhere on earth. Since first appearance, sources have informed this site that Alex Saab is the man behind Libre Abordo. Despite preposterous clarifications, no one in the business knows Verónica Esparza García, much less how she managed to become biggest player in town so quickly.

Libre Abordo claims compliance with General License 4c, and Executive Orders 13850, 13884. Let's see the wording:

"...in  light  of  actions  by  the  Maduro  regime  and  associated  persons  to  plunder  Venezuela’s  wealth  for  their  own  corrupt  purposes,  degrade  Venezuela’s   infrastructure   and   natural   environment   through   economic   mis-management  and  confiscatory  mining  and  industrial  practices,  and  catalyze  a  regional  migration  crisis  by  neglecting  the  basic  needs  of  the  Venezuelan  people..."

Alex Saab is a Department of Justice wanted thug. The DEA is also after him. His association with Maduro is very public and notorious. How did Libre Abordo "humanitarian" deal with CORPOVEX come about? Which bidding process did it win? What due diligence was done on Libre Abordo? Which other companies were considered?

While General License 4c allows for imports of agricultural commodities (food for humans), there is no uncertainty as to status of CORPOVEX in Saab's schemes.

Oh, but it gets better. Libre Abordo was involved with a crude cargo onboard VL Nichioh, which, as usual, went dark. Given that this was Libre Abordo's first venture into world of "humanitarian assistance", it partnered with Elemento Ltd., which leased the tanker as per sources.

Mind you, this is Elemento Ltd. A request for comment was put to Alessandro Bazzoni, of Elemento, due to a separate matter (recent filing of a lawsuit against Grupo Iveex in England's High Court). A reply came back from Vanessa Tattersall, legal counsel of Bazzoni in London, who said: "For the avoidance of doubt, Elemento does not trade with PdVSA – it does not have the registration to be able to do so." [bold added]

Another thug involved with Elemento, Richard Rothenberg, had this to say to England's High Court of Justice: "...since incorporation, Elemento has done 38 oil trades, including current trades, of which 25 were carried out through the Elemento/CCI joint venture. Since that venture has been dissolved, he says Elemento has done 13 more trades on its own."

In the context of same case here's Bazzoni's take: "...Elemento was unable to lift further PDVSA cargos, because Elemento had already purchased many cargos from PDVSA..."

Believing a word of whatever Elemento or Libre Abordo say is fraught with risk. Saab, a criminal on the run, can't be trusted. Ditto Bazzoni et al from Elemento. But what of those on the other side, that is, what of those who approved these arrangements?

Saab has been very close to Maduro for years, thanks to Piedad Cordoba, former senator linked to Colombia's narcoterrorist groups. Saab is also close to Cilia Flores's PDVSA network, led in the past by nephew Carlos Erik Malpica Flores. Landscape Vision Corp., a shell controlled by Carlos Erik's sister was awarded hundreds of millions worth of building projects. It then subcontracted Saab. Landscape Vision even dispatched an employee to Moscow with forged documents, to open accounts at EvroFinance Mosnarbank, so internal transfers to Saab would avoid triggering sanctions. Saab also developed, of course, excellent rapports with CORPOVEX.

Libre Abordo / Schlager deals came the same way Saab's Fondo Global de Construcción got hundreds of millions worth of housing contracts, same way Maduro's CLAP programme of subsidized food (most of it sourced in Mexico) minted Saab even more, same way Saab's Trenaco was to get largest ever production / infrastructure contract in the Orinoco Belt, same way Saab's foray into gold deals in Turkey... there isn't a single legitimate deal that Alex Saab has done since he set foot in Venezuela, and Libre Abordo is not different.

Given Libre Abordo / Schlager's near total dominance in PDVSA's crude exports and trading of late, it remains a mystery how these structures have not been added to Treasury's SDN list. Our sources report that most of Saab's deals are conducted nowadays under strict secrecy and with direct involvement of chavista officials. Just like the water trucks delivery, it's the Armed Forces, customs, PDVSA staff acting as maritime agents, when not corrupt contractors like Elemento lending a hand, tankers switching off AIS transponders... This is oil trading Colombian drug cartels style. And Saab would know: his partner German Enrique Rubio Salas (aka Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas) was arrested in May 2000 for drug trafficking. Therefore, who is to say that Saab isn't shipping cocaine by the ton?

There are other equally suspect companies suddenly involved with PDVSA: Richeart International Limited, Blackwell International Limited, Beaconsfield Commodities Trading AG, Grupo Jomadi Logistics & Cargo, and newcomer Proton Sociedad Limitada. It's the hour of nimble thugs...

UPDATE 08/05/2020 - 09:55 GMT:

Elemento has taken issue with what this site posted yesterday. An email from Vanessa Tattersall, demanding removal of references to Elemento, was received (see below). It is a good opportunity to delve deeper into Elemento and its activities in Venezuela.

Tattersall takes issue, specifically, with the following:

Mind you, this is Elemento Ltd. A request for comment was put to Alessandro Bazzoni, of Elemento, due to a separate matter (recent filing of a lawsuit against Grupo Iveex in England's High Court). A reply came back from Vanessa Tattersall, legal counsel of Bazzoni in London, who said: "For the avoidance of doubt, Elemento does not trade with PdVSA – it does not have the registration to be able to do so." [bold added]

Another thug involved with Elemento, Richard Rothenberg, had this to say to England's High Court of Justice: "...since incorporation, Elemento has done 38 oil trades, including current trades, of which 25 were carried out through the Elemento/CCI joint venture. Since that venture has been dissolved, he says Elemento has done 13 more trades on its own."

In the context of same case here's Bazzoni's take: "...Elemento was unable to lift further PDVSA cargos, because Elemento had already purchased many cargos from PDVSA..."

Believing a word of whatever Elemento or Libre Abordo say is fraught with risk. Saab, a criminal on the run, can't be trusted. Ditto Bazzoni et al from Elemento. But what of those on the other side, that is, what of those who approved these arrangements?

The above includes:

- a sentence from Tattersall email to me (29 April 2020 at 18:19:00 BST),

- two quotes from lawsuit "Tansy Shiptrade Inc v Elemento Ltd [2020] EWHC 193 (Comm) (27 January 2020)" where Elemento's Rothenberg and Bazzoni explain relations with PDVSA in context of case (notice the two links to case above "this is Elemento Ltd...", "context of same case..." in four paragraphs included above,

- This site opinion on Elemento, Bazzoni and Rothenberg.

Tattersall then counters the quotes selected above with:

- "...Elemento does not trade with PdVSA and does not have the registration to do so is incorrect. That statement is, however, entirely correct and you are well aware of this."

- "Mr Rothenberg: "Elemento therefore reached an agreement with PdVSA so that we could continue trading with them. It was agreed that Elemento would ask PdVSA to remove its registration to trade with it and would use third party companies or a broker to contract with PdVSA for cargoes, rather than do so itself. This is how Elemento has done business in Venezuela since early 2017."

- "Mr Bazzoni: "Elemento was (and is) not registered to trade with PdVSA because it had voluntarily relinquished its registration on agreement with PdVSA.""

- "Also, the same witness evidence makes it abundantly clear that Mr Bazzoni is not "of Elemento", as you say in your article. He has no ownership interest in or control over Elemento and is not employed by Elemento."

Since first publication, links to source of quotes about Elemento, case "Tansy Shiptrade Inc v Elemento Ltd [2020] EWHC 193 (Comm) (27 January 2020)", were included so readers could read origin and make up their minds on whether what this site quoted is an accurate representation.

Justice Henshaw in Tansy v Elemento case describes Elemento thus:

6) "The first defendant/respondent, Elemento, is a company incorporated in Malta, with offices in Malta and London. It was the subject of a worldwide freezing order, granted by Teare J on 19 July 2019 and continued by Popplewell J on 10 August 2019, in the case Delta Kanaris Special Maritime Enterprise and Delta Harmony Special Maritime Enterprise -v- Elemento Limited [2019] EWHC 2875."

8) "Mr Rothenberg gives some further detail about Elemento, explaining in his first affidavit that the company was incorporated in October 2016 and between then and February 2019 carried out trades as part of a joint venture with Castleton Commodities International (CCI), a major US commodities trader. Mr Rothenberg says that in February 2019, CCI had to cease its involvement in Venezuelan trades, as a result of the implementation of US sanctions against Venezuela. He says that since incorporation, Elemento has done 38 oil trades, including current trades, of which 25 were carried out through the Elemento/CCI joint venture. Since that venture has been dissolved, he says Elemento has done 13 more trades on its own."

10) "In his first affidavit, Mr Horn, the solicitor for Tansy, sets out Tansy's account of the background events leading up to the present application. He said that on 22 July 2019, which is shortly after the without notice freezing injunction was made against Elemento, Mr Alessandro Bazzoni, on behalf of Elemento, met with Mr Karageorgis and a Mr Donald McTaggart on behalf of Tansy, at their offices in Athens. On Tansy's case, the discussion went along the following lines."

12) "Mr Bazzoni said he had a pre-existing business relationship with PDVSA and was able to arrange the purchase of oil cargos from it. He was looking for partners who could buy such cargos. He asked whether Mr Karageorgis could supply an active company with a track record, which could be presented to PDVSA and approved by PDVSA as a future buyer of cargos on credit terms. Mr Karageorgis said he knew of a company, Tansy, which had previously been the owner of a vessel under the management of Times Navigation Limited and had established banking relationships. Mr Bazzoni proposed that Tansy could purchase cargos on credit from PDVSA and sell them on for profit."

In sum, it is sufficiently clear to this site that Bazzoni, Rothenberg and Elemento have kept a business relationship with PDVSA for years. Whether they do so directly, or through third parties, may be a distinction upon which they think threats of legal action could succeed.

It is sufficiently clear to this site that Elemento and Bazzoni continously appear as defendants in lawsuits, in almost every single jurisdiction where they operate.

Tattersall claims that Bazzoni has nothing to do with Elemento, when offering -on Elemento's behalf- PDVSA cargoes to Tansy, and was involved in further discussions with it. Requests for comment sent to ab@elemento.com.mt, Bazzoni's Elemento email, get replied by Tattersall, yet she claims Bazzoni is not related to Elemento. This sets the matter on Bazzoni's association with Elemento.

Moreover, notice that nowhere in Tattersall's email is there a mention to reason why Elemento was included in this story in the first place: its participation in a deal with Libre Abordo.

This site stands by what it posted yesterday.


From: Vanessa Tattersall <vanessa.tattersall@hfw.com>
Subject: RE: [EXTERNAL] Re: Re Elemento's lawsuits
Date: 7 May 2020 at 20:22:37 BST
To: alek boyd <alek.boyd@gmail.com>

 

Dear Mr Boyd,

 

Despite our communications below, including our warning to you not to publish any incorrect, misleading and/or defamatory statements about Elemento, it has come to our attention that you have published the following article online: https://infodio.com/07052020/libre/abordo/mexico/alex/saab/pdvsa/nicolas/maduro

 

In that article you make a number of very serious defamatory statements, including the section quoted below.

 

The majority of what you have written about Elemento, Mr Rothenberg and Mr Bazzoni is incorrect. In particular, you suggest that the statement in my email dated 29 April that Elemento does not trade with PdVSA and does not have the registration to do so is incorrect. That statement is, however, entirely correct and you are well aware of this.

 

Your attempt to contradict that statement using quotes from witness evidence filed in London court proceedings is wilfully misleading. The same witness evidence from which you quote includes the following statements, which confirm the statement I made to you:

 

·       Mr Rothenberg: "Elemento therefore reached an agreement with PdVSA so that we could continue trading with them. It was agreed that Elemento would ask PdVSA to remove its registration to trade with it and would use third party companies or a broker to contract with PdVSA for cargoes, rather than do so itself. This is how Elemento has done business in Venezuela since early 2017."

 

·       Mr Bazzoni: "Elemento was (and is) not registered to trade with PdVSA because it had voluntarily relinquished its registration on agreement with PdVSA."

 

Also, the same witness evidence makes it abundantly clear that Mr Bazzoni is not "of Elemento", as you say in your article. He has no ownership interest in or control over Elemento and is not employed by Elemento.

 

Your failure to accurately represent the statements made by Mr Rothenberg and Mr Bazzoni is unlawful and must be corrected without delay to minimise the reputational and financial damage to Elemento, Mr Rothenberg and Mr Bazzoni.

 

Please confirm without delay and by 17.30 UK time tomorrow that the section quoted below from your article will be removed. If we do not receive such confirmation, we expect to be instructed to take legal action against you.

 

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

QUOTE

 

Mind you, this is Elemento Ltd. A request for comment was put to Alessandro Bazzoni, of Elemento, due to a separate matter (recent filing of a lawsuit against Grupo Iveex in England's High Court). A reply came back from Vanessa Tattersall, legal counsel of Bazzoni in London, who said: "For the avoidance of doubt, Elemento does not trade with PdVSA – it does not have the registration to be able to do so." [bold added]

 

Another thug involved with Elemento, Richard Rothenberg, had this to say to England's High Court of Justice: "...since incorporation, Elemento has done 38 oil trades, including current trades, of which 25 were carried out through the Elemento/CCI joint venture. Since that venture has been dissolved, he says Elemento has done 13 more trades on its own."

In the context of same case here's Bazzoni's take: "...Elemento was unable to lift further PDVSA cargos, because Elemento had already purchased many cargos from PDVSA..."

 

Believing a word of whatever Elemento or Libre Abordo say is fraught with risk. Saab, a criminal on the run, can't be trusted. Ditto Bazzoni et al from Elemento. But what of those on the other side, that is, what of those who approved these arrangements?

 

UNQUOTE

 

Kind regards
Vanessa Tattersall

Partner
HFW

+44 (0)20 7264 8352  
vanessa.tattersall@hfw.com

HFW, Friary Court, 65 Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AE, United Kingdom
T +44 (0)20 7264 8000 | F +44 (0)20 7264 8888 | hfw.com 

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