In our August 2 Facebook Live session, Spanish Editor Ronna Rísquez spoke with Venezuelan journalist and director of media outlet El Pitazo César Batiz about recent allegations of corruption, money laundering and bribery at Venezuela’s state-run oil company PdVSA.
Scandals involving Venezuelan oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA) — the country’s main source of revenue — with possible criminal activities continue to multiply. US authorities recently detained two suspects in a criminal case filed in a Florida court for allegedly laundering $1.2 billion from PdVSA.
Batiz has investigated several instances of possible corruption and bribery at the Venezuelan oil company, and he explained that the criminal complaint filed in Florida identifies some 20 suspected participants in what the filing dubbed “Operation Money Flight.”
“Of this group, eight people are fully identified, [and] it mentions nine conspirators and three Venezuelan government officials,” Batiz told InSight Crime.
He went on to say that at least one former PdVSA vice president of finance could be among the suspects, but so far investigators have not determined who it could be.
Batiz described how the money laundering operation was managed between December 2014 and May 2015, through two companies, presumably the property of a Venezuelan media mogul whom the Miami Herald identified as Globovisión owner Raúl Gorrín.
“These companies loaned PdVSA 7.2 billion bolivares, which at the black-market exchange rate [Venezuela has been imposing currency controls since 2003] would be equivalent to 35 or 36 million euros [approximately $42 million]. But when exchanged at the official rate it became 511 million euros [approximately $600 million],” said the journalist.
He added that the latter amount is what one of the companies, which supposedly belongs to Gorrín, received, “and it was deposited into an account in Malta.”
During the conversation, Rísquez referred to other corruption and bribery cases linked to PdVSA that the United States has investigated, and Batiz responded that there are differences between the Florida case and other investigations. For example, a Texas court case involves bribes by companies that PdVSA contracted.
Later, Batiz explained some terms used in Venezuela that were mentioned in the Florida court’s case file: “boliburgués” and “bolichicos.” They refer to a portion of the Venezuelan elite that made its money by using its ties to the Chavista government to do business with state institutions and take advantage of the government’s currency controls.
Watch the full conversation in Spanish below: