El Nacional reported today that the Panama Papers contain information regarding Leonardo Gonzalez Dellan, the former head of the Banco Industrial de Venezuela (BIV). The BIV was a state-run bank that operated until 2009.

According to the newspaper, leaked files from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama reveal that Dellan had connections to shell companies in tax havens during his time as the head of the BIV, from 2002 to 2004.

Documents show that starting in 2003, Dellan acquired shares in a company called Blue Crest Holdings through Mossack Fonseca. That year, Dellan bought $10,000 worth of shares in the company, a move that was followed by the company granting his brother, Jose Angel Gonzalez Dellan, the power to “administer the company without any limitation” on October 30 of 2003.

At the same time, Jose Angel was the head of a company called Colosal XX, which “provided services” to PDVSA, including “administering food” and “construction and remodeling offices”.

Jose Angel would go on to own thousands of shares in other shell companies, including one named Rodsal Company Limited registered through Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands.

In 2011, Dellan placed $10,000 in another shell company – Gran Rez Alliance – through the Panamanian law firm.

There is nothing inherently illegal or corrupt about owning or having connections to shell companies in tax havens. However, individuals who have stolen or acquired money through illegal means can make use of these types of shell companies by stashing their cash in countries that are not likely to cooperate with foreign law enforcement agencies, and in ways that make their connections to these companies difficult to track.

Dellan And the Birth of the Currency Control Scheme

Dellan’s time at the helm of the BIV coincides with the introduction of a strict currency control scheme that is still in effect in Venezuela. At the time, the national government created an organization called CADIVI to regulate all currency exchange in the country, and the organization had extensive links to the BIV in its early years.

CADIVI introduced a multi-tiered currency exchange system that allowed only select companies and individuals to buy US dollars for Bolivares at lower rates. These individuals could then sell their US dollars at higher rates, and then turn around and buy more dollars at the preferential, lower rates.

The circle of buying cheap and selling low through the use of government connections allowed officials and others with connections to the national government to earn exuberant amounts of money. Dellan was one of the first individuals to take advantage of this corruption scheme.

Maduro Links Opposition to Mass Murder

Maduro spoke last night on the killing of “El Topo”, and infamous organized crime leader who is believed to have been responsible in the mass murder of at least 17 miners in the town of Tumeremo, Bolivar state two months ago.

Maduro said that some of El Topo’s accomplices “have been taking”, and that “there is more than one right wing politician implicated” in the Tumeremo massacre. At no point in his speech did Maduro provide any kind of concrete example or evidence to back up his claims.

Maduro also said that he found it suspicious that an unnamed politician “from the ultra-right wing” found out about the event before authorities did. While Maduro did not name the politician, it is likely that he was referring to deputy Americo de Grazia, who represents Bolivar state. De Grazia’s constituents alerted him of the massacre as soon as they found out about it, and he was the first to bring national attention to the case.

The state PSUV government initially de Grazia’s reporting of the event as part of a conspiracy to discredit the government. For days after de Grazia first broke the news, the PSUV governor of Bolivar state – Francisco Rangel Gomez – reiterated that news of the event were “completely false”, and suggested that de Grazia was simply trying to stir up unrest.

Maduro also pointed out that Tumeremo had never been the site of a mass murder of this magnitude before:

Tumeremo had never seen a massacre like this (…) we are facing off against demons, and we’re going to throw holy water at them, so that they know.

Deputy: SEBIN Raiding My Home

MUD National Assembly deputy Julio Montoya announced through Twitter earlier today that officers from SEBIN – the Venezuelan intelligence agency – were raiding his home. Montoya said that the raid took place shortly after he left his home in Caracas for the Simon Bolivar International Airport, where he was about to travel abroad to go on a fact-finding mission to track down embezzled money destined for electrical projects in the country.

Montoya said that heavily armed SEBIN agents were raiding his home, and that they were threatening his neighbours to stop recording and taking pictures of the event.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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