UPDATED (see below) - A while ago some intriguing news came from Curaçao about Isla refinery (Google translation): "That Caribbean Petroleum Refinery (CPR) would have problems with the 'proof of funds' in connection with the intended takeover of the operation of the Isla refinery is denied by the management of government-owned company Refineria di Kòrsou (RdK)... The fact is that the negotiations to arrive at a Heads of Agreement, HoA or outline agreement, are more complex and therefore take a lot longer than estimated... CPR is an entity formed by seven different groups, including that of Venezuelan American Luis Giusti. He is himself (chief) director of Caribbean Petroleum Refinery Holding bv, which was founded in June this year, together with the Curaçaoan Erchenel Doran who acts as the local representative of CPR. The latter is also co-director of the operating company CPR, of which Venezuelan Alejandro Marquez Bustos and Venezuelan American Raul Socorro Herrera are also directors."
Yesterday, AP reported "US-owned firms appear to help Venezuela avoid US sanctions":
"A company with an office in Houston and another owned by two American citizens appear to be helping Venezuela bypass U.S. sanctions and quietly transport millions in petroleum products aboard an Iranian-built tanker, The Associated Press has learned..."
Reporter Joshua Goodman provides details of a Togo-flagged vessel (Colon IMO 9503574) which delivered "...600,000 barrels of fuel oil at the Bullenbaai terminal, which is operated by Curacao’s state-owned refining company in partnership with a fledgling company, Caribbean Petroleum Refinery, owned by two Venezuelan American dual nationals." [bold added]
Caribbean Petroleum Refinery is a Curacao-registered company in which Luis Giusti, former PDVSA CEO, is probably involved as UBO. Marquez Bustos and Socorro Herrera are just his fronts in the deal. Socorro Herrera and Giusti were partners in a Texas-registered -now defunct- company called Super Magma Energy LLC, where Giusti's son (former Chairman of CITGO under Juan Guaido) was also involved.
As reported by Goodman, Colon (IMO 9503574) lifted 600,000 barrels of fuel oil from PDVSA's Amuay and delivered to Isla on September 28th. Panama-registered Knob Trading S.A. then consigned the load to Giusti's Caribbean Petroleum Refinery (CPR), which produced a re-exporting "Certificate of Origin", signed by Managing Director Frank Verhoets on October 29th.
Frank Verhoets is a ghost. Neither Goodman nor this site's own research could find anything to corroborate relation between Giusti's CPR and Verhoets. But then another ghost, Panama-registered United Petroleo Corp., lifted the cargo brought aboard Colon for onward trade.
As per its website, United Petroleo claims to be "an independent trading company for raw materials and oil that accounts for the majority of the types of energy derivatives." It is a typical flight by night operation: no names, hidden behind rented Panamanian proxies, with no track record to speak of. Its website however provides a clue: it was registered by Venezuelan GUERNICA GONZALEZ MOYA using an address in Costa Rica that is, in turn, associated with Dicola CA. S.A., a
seller of imitation jewellery firm smuggling gold to the U.S.
Needless to add that Gonzalez Moya does not have any records, or any associations with energy related business in Venezuela or elsewhere. Sources had informed this site earlier that Costa Rica and companies from that country were being used by Venezuelans to outsource dodgy trades with PDVSA / CITGO.
Goodman made a surprising claim about United Petroleo, saying it had "... emerged as PDVSA’s second biggest client this year, with unpaid invoices for oil products sold on consignment of over $400 million..."* That "over $400 million" claim must refer mostly to off books trades, and who manages PDVSA's off books trades? Delcy Rodriguez's people, Tareck's people, etc.
PDVSA is believed to have large quantities of fuel oil, which owing to U.S. sanctions are currently being used as payment to those procuring Vzla / PDVSA with stuff. Vendors get fuel oil cargoes, which then have to be sold somewhere. Here’s where Isla refinery fits. Fuel oil gets exported from Amuay to Curaçao's Isla refinery, which is not operational, and then Isla refinery (read Giusti) "sells" said fuel oil as its own product -Bullenbaai Fuel Oil- to a third party (United Petroleo).
There’s a few interesting aspects about this affair. First is, of course, the fact that Isla refinery isn’t even operational. PDVSA's fuel oil is being traded using Isla refinery as a front and Curaçao’s authorities / Dutch authorities say nothing? Then there is Luis Giusti, allegedly a dyed in the wool opponent of chavismo, who happens to be involved.
This site got its fair share of criticism when it reported on Ecuadorian news about Giusti as a travelling companion of Alvaro Pulido, the convicted drug trafficker and partner in crime of Alex Saab. This new development illustrates perfectly that Giusti is, as per reported news, a willing partner of Nicolas Maduro & co. The tanker used, Colon, is a PDVSA vessel whose only trip beyond Venezuela's territorial waters was that to Isla refinery, to deliver a cargo for Giusti.
That PDVSA would deliver oil -without any intermediaries- to a consortium where Giusti is involved means only one thing: chavismo trusts him. Knob Trading, United Petroleo, Giusti's CPR, Marquez Bustos, Socorro Herrera, Gonzalez Moya... just parts of an ever evolving network of fronts that PDVSA uses with great success to avoid Treasury sanctions.
But Giusti and son, and Marquez Bustos, and Socorro Herrera are either U.S. citizens or legal residents, with U.S. registered businesses, which in theory would be forbidden -as per Treasury sanctions- from engaging in these type of sanctions-busting deals with PDVSA.
UPDATED 11/18/2022 16:56 - Giusti & co must be feeling the heat. CPR produced an unsigned press release that includes details of a dysfunctional website (www.cpr.cw) claiming:
"CPR took notice of an article in AP and local news outlets which insinuates that CPR is one of the companies that helps the Venezuelan government to bypass US sanctions. This information is inaccurate, baseless, and based on erroneous documentation. There have not been, and currently, there are no relationships or agreements between our organization and any government or subsidiaries of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."
Very professional of CPR. An anonymous release will certainly allay all doubts / questions about its involvement with PDVSA.
In the meanwhile, Gooodman has been making some phone calls:
From @StateDept @WHAAsstSecty spokesman:
"We are aware of the press reports regarding a firm with supposed U.S.-ties allegedly dealing with Venezuelan oil.
Our Venezuela sanctions remain in effect, and we will continue to implement and enforce our Venezuela sanctions." https://t.co/PDgBf5I7Tj
— Joshua Goodman (@APjoshgoodman) November 18, 2022
The image of this article has been changed, to reflect journey that Colon tanker made to deliver PDVSA's fuel oil to CPR, whose release does admit that "...CPR is leasing a part of the tanks at Bullenbaai..." Enough said.
UPDATED 11/19/2022 15:38 - Equasis, the maritime database, has some interesting details about vessel Colon. Since April 1 2022 is sailing without a known flag, and therefore without insurance.
A Notice of Cancellation of Registry from the Togolese Maritime Authority -dated April 14 2022- seen by this site stated that Colon's registry certificate expired December 17 2021 and "due to non-completion of registration requirements" it could no longer sail under Togo's flag.
The Togolese Maritime Authority's information about Colon's ownership (Panama's Lowest Point Inc) coincides with that held at Equasis, which has Lowest Point as owner, and Manteniship XXI SL out of Oviedo, Spain, as manager.
Colon, formerly known as Arita, appears a number of times in PDVSA's past shipping lineups -mostly in cabotage- apart from some journeys to Cuba and China. PDVSA Amuay operates / manages the vessel, and included a comment in May 2022 lineup regarding change of name (from Arita to Colon).
United Petroleo Corp. also appears in a couple of instances in lineups (May and June 2022), as client in fuel oil shipments to Singapore (vessel Hendrick) and China (vessel Nada).
Curaçao's press reports that Socorro Herrera admitted involvement of CPR as provider of storage to owner of the oil cargo. The admission means -in practical terms- that CPR knows who Knob Trading's and United Petroleo's UBOs are. It would be unthinkable, in the context of negotiations between CPR and Curaçao’s Refineria di Kòrsou's authorities, that CPR would endanger / undermine its position -by participating in Treasury-sanctions-busting subterfuge oil trading with PDVSA- without informing its partners.
* This article claimed erroneously that United Petroleo Corp. did not appear in PDVSA's shipping lineups. It has been amended to include information in that regard.