Read an updated version here. Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA as it is commonly referred to, is an oil conglomerate fully owned by the Venezuelan State. Despite much propaganda to the contrary, it was created in 1976, by then President Carlos Andres Pérez, as part of a nationalization policy drive that gave Venezuela full control of exploration, production and commercialization of its natural resources. In subsequent years, and thanks to visionary strategies implemented by Venezuelan oilmen, PDVSA became a vertically integrated business. The high sulfur, poor quality, oil extracted was shipped -mostly- in Venezuela's own fleet of tankers to Venezuela-owned, specially-designed refineries across the world, which then turn the thing into gasoline, asphalt, and other more commercial derivatives. It was a success story, one of the world's very few State-owned, highly profitable, and well managed oil conglomerates. But then, Hugo Chavez happened.
In 2002, shortly after a constituent assembly that dismantled all constituted institutional power, the country was "rebuilt" from the ground up, along Chavez's directives. PDVSA not only stood in the middle, having been managed professionally ever since creation, it was effectively the country's economic engine and source of nearly all its wealth. It became imperative for Chavez to wrest control, which he did, by sacking in national television PDVSA's top management. Further resistance was obliterated, by sacking another 20,000 PDVSA staff, nearly half its workforce at the time.
PDVSA then became Chavez's revolution cash cow. Its resources and income have been pilfered ever since by chavismo. Its production and productivity dropped dramatically. Its workforce tripled, by non-oil personnel. Heavily indebted, it had to issue anew calls for international partnerships as its capacity to produce oil diminished over time. Hemorrhaging capital due to gasoline subsidies and oil gifts to chavismo's international political allies, PDVSA is a sad shadow of its former self. However, in this context, corruption in procurement to PDVSA has flourished to levels never seen before.
#OpenPDVSA is an attempt to shed some light on just some of the particulars that PDVSA publishes. Having scrapped thousands of procurement contracts and correlating the information with other public databases, I am in the process of establishing connections that would not be straightforward otherwise. The data seems to relate, mostly, to procurement contracts awarded by PDVSA between 2012-2015.
In that three year period, the largest sum awarded in a single contract -some $929 million- was to a contractor that does not even exist. It is entirely possible that sums have been misreported, and so further research is required. However, while a comma or a dot may have been misplaced in amounts, names of contractors and their tax numbers are less susceptible to mistakes during transcription. Thus, procurement contractor Iker Guarima, tax reference number J-293799005, has no company website, no record in Venezuela's registry of contractors, no online presence of any sort, no track record, and yet it seems to have been awarded by PDVSA, on August 2014, nearly a billion USD for the provision of materials destined for construction of social housing, by yet different contractors of Ministry of Habitat and Housing. Not one of the sources I consulted has any knowledge of Iker Guarima, though the contract raises other issues, such as: why is PDVSA engaged in contracting providers to the Ministry of Habitat and Housing' projects?
The third largest contract -$730 million- was given to Constructora INCENTER. This company belongs to a fellow known to readers of this website: Antonio "Tony" Canaves, partner of Colombian "businessman" Alex Saab. Did I mention that Canaves is suspected of involvement in an assassination and has been arrested for drug trafficking?
Then there is the Moschella clan, from Maracaibo (Zulia state). Through different companies (INDUSTRIAS MARITIMAS VENEZOLANA DE CONSTRUCCIONES, ZULIA INDUSTRIAL CONSTRUCTIONS, TIERRA ALTA SISTEMAS DE PRODUCCION and EHCOPEK) the group has managed to get $1.16 billion in the three year period. This Moschella group appears to be associated to one of chavismo's favorite bankers: Victor Vargas from Banco Occidental de Descuento. Mr Vargas himself, also has gotten some $614 million worth of contracts in energy related business, through ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS DE VENEZUELA, which has gotten many contracts over the years from PDVSA.
The workings of another oil magnate came to light: Gerardo Pantin Shortt, whose companies Cementaciones Petroleras Venezolanas (CPVEN) and SEPESA S.A. got $1.14 billion through 30 contracts. Mr Pantin was in the news today, as the owner of a $12.9 million mansion in Sunset Island, and developer behind a $200 million real estate project in Miami. It would appear that laundering corruption money from Venezuela continues apace in Miami, despite announcements from the U.S. Treasury. Mr Pantin, and associate Oswaldo Cisneros, purchased Maersk barge operations in Venezuela in September 2014. Mr Cisneros is in turn partner of Derwick Associates' Francisco D'Agostino in acquisition through debt-purchasing of a stake in Harvest Natural Resources.
The total amount of contracts awarded by PDVSA in the 2012-2015 period exceeds $30 billion. That's just related to procurement related to PDVSA non-secret operations. For it has to be remembered that, in some instances, non disclosure on the basis of "threats to national security" has been claimed by PDVSA to refuse to hand over contracts information, like in its infamous agreements with Derwick Associates.