Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco: “Person of Interest”
Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, the Colombian-Venezuelan “entrepreneur” who operates out of Panama as a front-man (testaferro) and business associate of Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello, is a “person of interest” to government law enforcement and counter-narcotics intelligence entities in at least three countries – the US, Colombia and Panama.
In the mid-1990s, Fernandez Barrueco, reportedly the son of a conserje (concierge) in a Caracas apartment building, was part owner of a parking garage.
However, less than a decade later, at the end of 2005, Fernandez Barrueco claimed a net worth of over $1.6 billion, according to the Venezuelan affiliate of KPMG. There are earlier posts on this subject, so we won’t go into the details again. (The Panamanian affiliate of KPMG handles Fernandez Barrueco’s external accounting and auditing needs in Panama.)
Four years later, in 2009, Fernandez Barrueco also owns perhaps a half-dozen banks and insurance companies and claims to have over $1 billion in cash to acquire more financial assets in Venezuela and other countries.
Fernandez Barrueco went into banking in 2005.
His first major acquisition was Banpro. Fernandez Barrueco purchased Banpro during a period in which Jorge Azpurua, son of one of the bank’s controlling shareholders, was being held by kidnappers in Caracas, about 15-20 minutes by vehicle from the precise spot where he was snatched.
Azpurua was released after a ransom payment reportedly was negotiated in northern Ecuador with persons who identifid themselves as members of the FARC. Ramon Rodriguez Chacin reportedly was involved in those negotiations.
Fernandez Barrueco is believed to have commissioned young Jorge’s abduction, according to law enforcement sources familiar with that case.
Fernandez Barrueco also has been implicated by investigators in the February 2009 abduction of banker German Garcia Velutini. Another figure implicated in this abduction is former DISIP financial intelligence director Pedro Luis Martin, who is reportedly an occasional associate of Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. But the government isn’t investigating this case actively.
“It’s political. Orders from above are to ‘cuarentear’ the case,” a law enforcement official says. “Cuarentear” is Venezuelan police argot used to signal that an investigation has been shut down or buried for political reasons.
Meanwhile, sources with some of the more than six international investigations currently targeting Fernandez Barrueco tell Caracas Gringo that the “entrepreneur” is believed to have financial relations with the FARC since about the mid-1990s.
These sources also report that in recent weeks Fernandez Barrueco has been transferring assets in Venezuela and Panama to some new “testaferros” including attorney Jose Gregorio Camacho Uzcategui (C.I. 4.962.983), and also to the esteemed attorney’s daughter, whose name is Caribey Camacho Castro.
Camacho Uzcategui is known as “el principal” in Fernandez Barrueco’s inner circle: the principal “testaferro” or front-man.
“Fernandez Barrueco is restructuring many of his business operations in the ‘registros’ of Venezuela and Panama because he knows he is being investigated, so he’s trying to dilute the document trails leading back to him. Recently, he also confirmed that his own brothers are stealing from him,” a US federal law enforcement source tells Caracas Gringo.
Fernandez Barrueco also may be seeking to hide some assets in Nicaragua, where the director of the ‘registro nacional’ is said to be deep in his pocket.