On 6th April at 17:19, I got a call from UK mobile 07493 741071. The caller, who identified himself as Argenis D'Arienzo, said he wanted to talk to me about Venezuela. Since I didn't know this person, had never heard of him before, I asked how he had obtained my number. D'Arienzo said his "good friend" Joaquin Chaffardet had given my number. This did little to assuage my concerns, for while I was tangentially aware of who Chaffardet was, I had never meet him, given him my number, much less permission to be sharing it with other people. D'Arienzo went on and on about what he believed is his illustrious career as a journalist in Venezuela, saying he had exposed Cliver Alcalá, the Cartel de los Soles and corruption at PDVSA. Presumably this was done to establish his bona fides. Eventually he got to the point: he was calling to broker a meeting on behalf of Salar Ataie Bandari.
Hardly managing to contain my surprise at D'Arienzo's sheer chutzpah, I asked whether he knew what I had written about Ataie Bandari. He said he had and that was the reason for the call. He went on about how paying journalists in Venezuela is a regular and widespread practice, whenever negative press about this or that "entrepreneur" hits the public domain. He said he, in fact, had had an issue with Ataie Bandari related to some reporting he had done, and that Ataie Bandari, who was described as a pedantic young turk, had shown him in a meeting they had had that his reporting was inaccurate. He also mentioned that Ataie Bandari's representatives had argued that due to confidentiality clauses signed with PDVSA, no official documents could be shared / shown / published.
D'Arienzo then asked whether I knew Aurelio Fernandez Concheso, that he was a maritime lawyer, very well known, son of a former FEDECAMARAS boss. He added that Fernandez Concheso "litigated in London", and that he was Ataie Bandari's lawyer. A meeting, therefore, with Ataie Bandari and Fernandez Concheso, in London, was the purpose of the call. D'Arienzo claimed that his involvement was to guarantee that nothing untoward would happen, and that he would also be present in said meeting, should I agree to it.
D'Arienzo's call lasted 16 minutes, which for the most part he employed in trying to sell this story of how much he opposed chavismo. Before hanging up I said I had no interest whatsoever in meeting with Ataie Bandari, for all practical matters an enchufado, i.e. one of those bolichicos that can only "do business" with chavismo. I then blocked D'Arienzo's number, and did some research.
Chaffardet is a former police boss (DISIP) and former associate of none other than Luis Posada Carriles. In all frankness I didn’t know this. I confronted Chaffardet via email, and asked whether he had my number. In his reply he claimed he had obtained it from yet another person, years ago, and that since some years ago he wanted to share some information with me, that he had called me numerous times and I had never replied, and his friend, "the known and respected" journalist from Zulia "Argenis Da Arienzo" (sic), "who is in London" had called to ask whether he knew me. Chaffardet claimed he told D'Arienzo that of course he knew of me, and that he had given my number.
When I wrote back saying that I had never given my number, much less permission to share it, and that his action was an intolerable abuse, Chaffardet came back with a string of insults. It's a good thing I never took Chaffardet's calls. As per Ataie Bandari and his agents, and their willingness to buy silence, it's an even better thing I don't live in Venezuela anymore. Old school, or new, Venezuelan thugs share same amorality and disgusting behaviour. More importantly though, is the fact that these thugs operate in London with absolute freedom and impunity.