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Basil Shiblaq's Venezuela gold deal: decades in the making

In early February 2009, an email reached inbox of Felix Plasencia, Venezuela's current Minister of Foreign Affairs: 

Dear Felix
Is this good enough. I also held various ceremonial Diplomatic Posts by the following African Leaders:
1- Advisor to ex President Abdul Dioff of Senegal.
2- Consul General to Britain to The Central African Republic when President Patase was in power.
3- Ambassador at Large for The Republic of Liberia over 10 years ago.
4- Advisor to the late President Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
Best regards
Basil

"Basil" is of course Basil Shiblaq, a London-based entrepreneur with a rather questionable career. Shiblaq used to court Delcy Rodriguez, all the way back when she was in London, to develop "business opportunities" in Venezuela. The charm offensive included meetings in fancy hotels, bars, visits to Shiblaq's flat, etc.

He pitched himself as an "investor" with expertise in finance, oil trading and mining. His CV -created by Pavel Ghahreman-Nejad in October 2004 and modified in December 2007- contained references to stints at Merril Lynch (1969-1978), Kidder Peabody (1978-1980), Credit Suisse (1980-1982), and involvement with Salfiti Securities (UK) Limited, Sirt Securities (UK) Limited, Uni Oil (U.K) Limited, Prime Oil (London) Limited, and Omicron Holding plc between 1988 and 2009.

Shiblaq is the kind of corrupt businessman who's equally comfortable operating with chavistas, mercenaries, London bankers, "African Leaders" and former heads of the UK's Conservative Party, as his late activities show.

The Financial Times reported recently that Shiblaq had entered into some kind of mining deal with Nicolas Maduro's regime. Shiblaq's partners were not mentioned. Elsewhere, it was reported that Ian Hannam was the secret operative involved in setting up a meeting between Erik Prince and Delcy Rodriguez, with the purpose of obtaining mining concessions in Venezuela. The meeting with Rodriguez took place months after Prince's proposals of a mercenary army to oust Maduro, to different people close to Trump's stooge Juan Guaido. Again, the Shiblaq connection was missed.

Shiblaq's deal has been years in the making and it has all the key ingredients, including another associate (Fuad Huseynli) who's "Former Deputy Head of Global Commodities at VTB Capital Plc."

It is unlikely that Shiblaq, or his associates, will get sanctioned by U.S. Treasury. Maduro has proved his capacity to laugh at the poorly implemented sanctions regime, and characters like Shiblaq, Hannam and Prince are precisely what's needed. Instead of weakening his grip, the Trump and Biden administration measures have managed to strengthen Maduro's position to unprecedented levels. The coming elections will be Maduro's ultimate crowning, with imprimaturs from the European Union, the Carter Center and all the main political parties in Venezuela.

And then, there's Boris Johnson, leading a government characterised by sleaze. While the UK has implemented some sanctions against some chavistas, Shiblaq has absolutely nothing to fear here either. Venezuela may prove to be the one place where Shiblaq actually pulls it.

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