From an apartment in a luxury skyscraper in Manhattan (USA), on the “millionaire avenue”, to fantasy houses in paradisiac Marbella, Spain. From investments in exclusive touristic projects in the Caribbean, such as Punta Cana and Dominican Republic to entrepreneurships with dreamy budgets at El Salvador. From complex business tissues, knitted in Panama and connected to large bank accounts around the world to companies in Argentina or Uruguay, which jumped from doing more than discrete businesses and having almost no money in their arks to be simply multimillionaires. From the failed construction of a gigantic oil refinery in Nicaragua to the calculated acquisition of an agro-industrial giant in Bolivia.
All of this has been associated to a common origin: the millionaire flow of petrodollars that came from the public treasury of the Venezuela ruled by Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro during the last 20 years. That is what Chavismo INC., is all about, a collaborative investigation that evidences a complex network of businesses, which filled few pockets of people who is now stablished in different corners of the world, in a diaspora that renders account of the international projection of the Venezuelan case, through a series of documentaries covering a dozen countries.
This project was performed by Transparencia Venezuela, the Rebel Alliance Investigates (ARI) and the Latin American Platform of Journalism CONNECTAS). It is supported by the official inquiries made by authorities such as Prosecutors, Tribunals, Parliaments (among other documents) in 21 countries to relate the shuffle and final destination of money that in some cases was obtained thanks to the proximity to power, through advantageous, deceptive, fraudulent agreements, or just simply as the result of sophisticated networks that enabled a patrimony to be squeezed out, which led to poverty, hunger and major humanitarian deficiencies in the previously prosper oil nation, the one that still has the largest crude oil reserves in the world.
Outside Venezuela, there are at least 86 ongoing investigations. 52 of these files track more than USD $30 billion allegedly related to money laundering operations, according to the information obtained by Chavismo INC. This number exceeds almost 6 times the international reserves according to Banco Central de Venezuela database, disclosed in January 2020. However, this is fraction compared to the income received thanks to the oil boom reported by the Government, who controls the monopoly of the oil industry. Fiscal incomes are calculated approximately in 1 trillion dollars in a decade. This income seemed to evaporate while the institutions controlled by the chavismo in the last 20 years have barely done any efforts to recover this money and investigate the denounces related to every cent.
This portrait is the result of a data base complied by Chavismo INC., opened to public with the submission of this work, which sets an exercise to track more than 5.000 persons and entities that have been linked directly or indirectly to Venezuelan funds. This research turned up in a consolidated inventory of 751 people of interest due to their connections to businesses with chavismo government. Contractors with access to power, former high government officials and intermediaries with privileged contracts have been related to more than 3919 interactions with their environments.
In countries like Panama, one of the financial crossroads of the world due to its easiness, it is estimated that Venezuelan customers have injected more than $2.800 million dollars into its banking system till 2019. Mexican ex-president Vicente Fox coined a phrase that, at that moment, gave a key to understand the phenomenon: “the best minister of Economy that Panama has had is Hugo Chávez”.
It was precisely in that country where a German banker knitted the complex skein of one of the biggest money laundering networks from Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), around $1.200 million dollars. This case involved, according to the investigations, from relatives of Cilia Flores (Maduro’s wife and “first combatant” of Venezuela) to former public officials and young contractors. As it is stated in Chavismo INC., important names from power positions, public contracting and defalcation formulas had their companies at the Isthmus. (see here).
They also had offices in other places, where massive migrations of funds had place. In many cases, those funds were captured by real estate market. Ironically, United States is the country where most of the criminal investigations were made and where the money follow up has been more strict, but also where millionaire flows of money from Venezuelan fortunes were linked to businesses through companies that were created only to make real estate transactions. An example of it, investigated for this documentary, is a USD $17 million apartment, located in One57 skyscraper, in an exclusive area for magnates. The property is owned by a former oil contractor, condemned by USA justice due to his connection to money laundering (see here).
A similar situation took place in Spain, a country that has been receptive of funds from characters mentioned in cases investigated internationally. They acquired properties in La Moraleja and Salamanca, those areas are among the ten that concentrate residents with the highest per capita incomes in the European country, according to the Spanish tribute agency. One of these characters was an ex – government official linked to the strategic area of energy and who is investigated in four countries. In one case only, he is pointed by suspicious movements of more than USD $54 million. He bought apartments for himself and other relatives in Madrid. Likewise, a young businessman who is under the magnifying glass of justice, acquired a €23 million farm, promotes investments in global reputation startups and he has come to have proximity with the highest Spanish elite (See here).
The assimilation with traditional families also happened in paradisiac places like Dominican Republic, where a former Pdvsa contractors clan, some of them requested by the Venezuelan justice, managed to slip through groups related to tourism business, which is not easy to make. According to Chavismo INC., the businessmen take part of the promotion group for project Downtown Punta Cana, a development of more than 150 thousand square feet, that offers to lead an already dreamy and consolidated destination in the Caribbean to a higher level. ¿The estimated cost of this development? Approximately USD $100 million (see here).
The fuel for foreign businesses was associated to the opportunities that came up with oil agreements sculpted from Venezuela, with strategic partners. In Evo Morale’s Bolivia, a man that was deputy for the president’s party became owner of an agro-industrial complex that has exported more than a billion dollars in the last decade, thanks to an operation with Venezuelan funds. He is currently being investigated for money laundering, also helped to dissimulate the discrete control exercised by Chávez and Maduro over an active barely known in Venezuela (see here).
In El Salvador of Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), a complex network of companies benefitted by loans from Venezuelan cooperation was created, almost USD $100 million of these financings were given to an airline that went bankrupted only after two years of operation. This company had among its directives a Venezuelan Pdvsa contractor (see here). In Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, more than USD $3.700 million were given in oil credits, those were discretely handled by the presidential family. A mega – refinery failed project also gave business opportunities to companies accused of bribery to PDVSA employees in other cases (see here).
In Kirchner’s Argentina there have been identified sales with overprice for more than USD $234 million. Among these, there is a businessman that multiplied greatly his patrimony thanks to businesses in Venezuela. Local judges opened a dozen of cases, but it languishes, according to affirmations, due to lack of cooperation from the Venezuelan authorities (see here). This already happened in José Mujica and Tabaré Vásquez’s Uruguay, where two judicial investigations were dismissed. These pretended to reveal how the contact networks worked to do businesses with Venezuelan government, plagued with denounces for alleged corruption (see here).
The exception in the world has been precisely firm condemnations. The common, to have millionaire bribe collection schemes and legalization of capitals mainly related to Pdvsa (see here), the squeezed goose of the golden eggs. That is stated in this investigation, which combined the efforts of twenty journalists.
Chavismo INC. will continue working on the development of an interface, baptized as Corruptometer, which soon will propose to readers an analysis of the inquiries to Venezuelan entities such as Public Ministry, Comptroller General of the Republic and the National Assembly. This will quantify the amounts compromised by Venezuelan corruption and will go over emblematic cases.
The bonanza brought by the time when an oil barrel fluctuated over the USD $100 had the aim to expand Bolivarian socialism. Thousands of millions disappeared in alleged networks of cooperation, which was translated in several countries as corruption and caste systems that became entrenched with power. For many people’s pockets, just as presented by Chavismo INC., socialism transformed, in practice, in the best example of Bolivarian capitalism in the world.
*The inclusion of persons, companies or other entities in the data base does not pretend to suggest or imply that they have infringed the law or acted inappropriately. If you notice an error in the content, please contact us here.