I get my F1 news mainly from Joe Saward. His report of the last grand prix from Suzuka almost made me choke, because of this claim regarding Williams F1 Team and PDVSA:
The problem is that the two parties cannot easily go their separate ways because there is a sponsorship contract between Williams and PDVSA for another two years and the oil company cannot simply walk away and put Maldonado somewhere else. It could agree a settlement with Williams to end the relationship and pay off a percentage of the money, but it would still need to pay another team in order to get Maldonado in.
After a career that spans decades, Joe is extremely knowledgeable about F1, but he is extremely ignorant about Venezuelan laws (why would it be different, right?). The case is that Saward's claim seems to be getting traction in some parts.
Unknown to many a formula 1 reporter, PDVSA is a state-owned company. As such and according to its bylaws, every expenditure needs to be approved by its board (read Rafael Ramirez & co) and is subject to public audits. Once that board approves expenditure of the sort, the Ministry of Petroleum (also headed by Rafael Ramirez) must certify that said expenditure complies with the Comptroller's Office Organic Law. PDVSA annual budgets are a matter of public interest, and subject to any and all type of audits from Venezuela's Congress, which can approve/reject PDVSA's proposals. It follows that the sponsorship contract between PDVSA and Williams F1 Team, worth anywhere between £110 million and £154 million, must have been approved / sanctioned by all relevant parties according to law. Unlike private companies, PDVSA can not decide -unilaterally- to spend as it sees fit.
Then there's the issue of jurisdiction. PDVSA, being a state-owned company, can not agree -without specific approval from relevant presidential decree, ministry, or special law, to surrender Venezuela's jurisdiction as the sole place in which potential legal disputes involving PDVSA with third parties must be resolved.
Therefore, hypothetically speaking, should PDVSA decide today that it will no longer honour the contract it has with Williams F1 Team -which must be stressed was never approved according to current laws- there's absolutely nothing that Williams could do to force a payment/settlement. The contract is illegal, and even an F1 journalist knows that an illegal contract is unenforceable in a court of law, even in Venezuela's kangaroo courts.
But then, we learn about the fraud that's taken place in Venezuela's Ministry of Sports. It appears that the signature of the Minister was forged in various requests submitted to CADIVI (body that administer currency exchange). The Minister informed that in the case of one particular athlete, $66 million were illegally approved in the last 18 months. The rumour mill in Caracas has it that Pastor Maldonado could be that athlete, in which case Williams F1 Team will be a party in said fraud.
BBC F1 pundit Eddie Jordan has been quoted as saying that Maldonado won't race for Williams next year and could be headed to Sauber or Force India, a team whose owner's financials are a bit of an obsession of Joe Saward. It will be interesting to see how this whole saga pans out, now that Pastor's benefactor-in-chief is dead.