Bloomberg reports today that at least 18 Swiss banks have agreed to hand over information to U.S. authorities involving PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. The articles cites “Swiss regulators” as acknowledging that PDVSA is at the heart of a corruption investigation by the United States Department of Justice, and that the banks involved include UBS AG, EFG Bank AG, and CBH Compagnie Bancaire Helvetique SA. The article claims that the banks are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Swiss authorities also confirmed that the request involves as US Department of Justice investigation into Derwick Associates, which is allegedly under the command of US Attorney Preet Bharara.
This is not the first time that Derwick Associates has been in the news. In 2011, an investigative series published by Ultimas Noticias discovered strange contracts and transactions between the company and PDVSA and other state-owned companies.
The company was awarded an unprecedented twelve contracts in fourteen months by the Venezuelan government to build electrical power plants and electrical infrastructure in Venezuela, despite lacking the experience and material and human capital to do so. The contracts were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and were overcharged by as much as 425%.
PDVSA has been coming increasing scrutiny over the past months. Court documents unsealed yesterday by a Houston judge revealed that three former PDVSA executives pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to launder money. That case stems from one involving Venezuelan businessmen Roberto Rincon and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, both of whom were accused of bribing PDVSA officials to the tune of one billion dollars in exchange for contracts. Bastidas pleaded guilty to the charges last Friday, while Rincon’s trial is set to start in late April.
Policaracas Responds to Officer Murder, Lacks Bullets
Last night, a Caracas municipal police force (Policaracas) supervisor Larry Morillo was murdered by a group of men in the El Cementerio area of the city. The delinquents shot Morillo as he sat inside his parked vehicle in front of his home and then attempted to set his body on fire.
Policaracas officers who responded to the scene were met by heavily-armed assailants. RunRun.Es cites one of the officers who responded to the scene that at some point during the ensuring firefight, the officers ran out of bullets and had to sit and wait for more ammunition to be delivered from nearby police units, including the National Bolivarian Police.
The firefight took place outside of Morillo’s home. The men who killed Morillo managed to also break into his home and killed his son.
Former PSUV National Assembly deputy Freddy Bernal spoke on Morillo’s murder last night, and called on the national government to take a harder stance against crime. Through his Twitter account, Bernal said:
How many more police officers and civilians have to die? We have to take over these death corridors in Caracas with the police and the military!
Former Chavez Minister: Corruption, Impunity “Ruined Revolution”
Former Minister of Education Hector Navarro leveled harsh criticism against Maduro through the media yesterday, calling the endemic corruption and impunity inside the PSUV “the greatest errors” of Maduro’s presidency.
Navarro, who served in Chavez’s cabinet, told Union Radio:
If you take a close look at what’s been happening over the last three years, then you’d come to the conclusion that Chavez made a mistake. He made an error of judgement that has backed us against a wall.
Navarro appeared to be referencing the fact that Chavez personally chose Maduro as his replacement, and urged Venezuelans to vote for him shortly before dying in 2013.
Navarro also blamed the country’s dire situation not on the so-called “economic war” which the PSUV blames everything from food shortages to blackouts for, but rather on corruption:
If we didn’t have the kind of administrative corruption that we’ve had, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.
On a way forward, Navarro urged all Venezuelans to band together, regardless of political affiliation, before it’s too late:
We Venezuelans have an obligation to stop this from happening, regardless of whether or not you’re a socialist. The path we’re on will take us to destruction.
Maduro: Obama Looking to “Take Over Latin America”
Maduro spoke yesterday during a meeting of his cabinet in Caracas, and said that Obama’s recent visits to Cuba and Argentina are part of an “imperial strategy” to take over Latin America.
Maduro called on supporters to stay vigilant in the face of this new attack:
What do we do? Play dumb? Do we ignore the fact that this is an imperial strategy to reconquer Latin America and the Caribbean? This imperial strategy is headed by President Obama. We have to say it like it is. He thinks he can re-conquer [Latin America] with his imperial claws.
Maduro said that Obama’s plan involves the “economic, cultural, political and social domination” of each Latin American country, and provided as evidence recent calls for the resignation of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef as.
While calling for the continued defense of “revolutionary, peaceful and democratic” governments in the area, Maduro also admitted that the time had come to undertake “great rectifications over the mistakes that we’ve made”.
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