Published On: Mon, Mar 19th, 2018

Venezuela accuses large oil traders of corruption

Zeelandia-office-Park-IntertrustWILLEMSTAD - The Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA accuses oil traders Trafigura, Vitol and Glencore of paying millions of dollars in bribes. In exchange for the money, the oil traders have received confidential information about future oil deals from PdVSA. The Venezuelan group claims damage of more than $ 5 billion in lost sales.

This is apparent from the indictment that PdVSA filed earlier this month with the court of Miami. In total, dozens of companies and individuals are accused, including Trafigura Beheer bv in the Netherlands and Blue Bank International on Curaçao.

It is a huge conspiracy, in which companies such as Trafigura and Vitol channeled funds to bribe PdVSA employees, including an IT administrator at the headquarters of PdVSA in Caracas, which was given the codename 'The Nerd'. In return, he, in fact, virtualized the computer system of the Venezuelan oil company and thus provided direct access to confidential information, such as future tenders and oil contracts from PdVSA.

Companies such as Vitol and Trafigura managed to get a head start on other parties for a fee. They were able to buy in oil at prices below market prices. They also manipulated tenders in such a way that they themselves were favored.

The companies do not want to respond to these accusations.

This entire scheme was set up in 2004 when two Venezuelans in Miami founded the company Helsinge to act as a conduit for confidential information obtained with bribes. To this day, this scheme exists, according to PdVSA.

The cloned computer server has not been noticed for eight years, “but the conspiracy started long before that time,” says David Boies, the American lawyer who has sent the information to Bloomberg financial news agency on behalf of PdVSA. “And they did it the old-fashioned way: through bribes.”

The judge in Miami dealing with the case of PdVSA rejected a request from the oil company to freeze assets of some of the accused parties and seize documents. However, the judge ordered the accused not to destroy evidence.

In connection with this case, the public prosecutor in Geneva, Switzerland, has started a criminal investigation last week into a number of Helsinge top managers. Two of the managers were arrested, according to news agency AP.

Corruption is a major problem within PdVSA. Last November, six top officials of Citgo Petroleum, the US subsidiary of PdVSA, were arrested by Venezuela on suspicion of corruption. Among them was also José Pereira, president of Citgo Petroleum and also director of Citgo Aruba Holding.

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