Monday, February 27, 2006

Venezuela: Chavista Corruption in Caracas, Swiss Bank Shenanigans

Financial analyst and corporate specialist Kenneth Rijock has an article reprinted in Petroleum World., where he makes allegations about corruption close to Chavez. While some of it is clearly rumor and speculation, there are some very interesting and well-supported tidbits here.

Better Bank on It

The one that really caught my attention, was regarding Swiss Bank Vontobel. It operates in Caracas without a banking license, and does not mention a Caracas office in its web page list of foreign offices.
This makes me suspicious right at the start. Chavez is known for his power plays over foreign companies; Venezuelan authorities have been known to threaten shutdowns of local offices of multinationals, for small mistakes made in tax filings.

The author states, that someone making a deposit at the bank, gave Chavez associate Fernandez Barrueco as a reference, they were told that he is one of their best customers. Word has it, that the bank is the repository for the Chavista funny-money, conveniently allowing for direct deposits for accounts conveniently located in the Caymans or Switzerland.

- El banco privado suizo, Vontobel, que opera sin licencia en Caracas, es el depositario de grandes sumas de dinero provenientes de altos oficiales militares. Cuando una persona con intenciones de depositar su dinero en el banco, dio a Fernández Barrueco como referencia, el gerente del banco le comentó que Fernández era un cliente valioso. Lo curioso es que el banco no señala en ninguna parte que tenga una sucursal en Venezuela. Vontobel es el depositario designado para las “comisiones” legales provenientes del comercio, por parte de la élite bolivariana para su propio peculio.