Dime con quien andas (3)
Alek Boyd, the respected London-based Venezuelan blogger with an impeccable reputation as a straight-shooter, posted two items on his blog last November about an alleged transaction by Central Bank of Venezuela involving a $2 billion sovereign bond that supposedly was being placed with Kellmar Ltd and Tony Caplin of the UK for the purpose of funding “humanitarian projects.”
What Boyd did not reveal in those posts of November 2011 is precisely how the documents were obtained. Here are the details, posted with his permission:
Boyd received a message from Esteban Gerbasi near the end of October 2011. “It came completely out of the blue, I hadn’t corresponded with (Gerbasi) before,” Boyd says.
Gerbasi wrote that he wanted to speak with Boyd and share some information.
When Boyd and Gerbasi finally talked, the latter asked Boyd to conduct a due diligence investigation of Kellmar Ltd. Boyd agreed to investigate the company. Looking into Kellmar led Boyd to Tony Caplin.
Boyd also was asked to send Gerbasi and his associates a draft proposal on how to maximize the damaging impact of the documents on the $2 billion bond issue and Kellmar Ltd in the news media.
In November 2011 Boyd participated in a four-way Skype conversation with Gerbasi, Alberto Federico Ravell, and David Moran Bohorquez.
During that four-way Skype call, Gerbasi mentioned Martin Rodil, and boasted about the “thousands of documents” obtained from within the Chavez government.
“No tienes ni idea de lo que tenemos,” Gerbasi also said. “Tenemos a (Nicolas) Maduro completamente infiltrado. Tenemos una oficina en España y otra en Israel donde estamos procesando toda la informacion.” (Translation: “You have no idea what we have. We have (Foreign Minister Nicolas) Maduro completely infiltrated. We have an office in Spain and another in Israel where we are processing all of the information.”)
When Gerbasi said this, Ravell added, “Te vamos a estar mandando puro lomito.” (Translation: “We’re going to be sending you pure choice cuts.”)
Gerbasi and Moran Bohorquez assured Boyd that the documents, which readers of this post can read on Boyd’s blog since last November, were legitimate.
When Boyd questioned Gerbasi and Moran Bohorquez about the bond, they explained that it was a “double emission,” i.e. the Chavez regime issues the same bond twice, the official one “se coloca en el Mercado” and investors buy parts of it, and the second one “se engaveta” but is equally backed up by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV).
They also explained that the second hidden (“engavetado”) bond is then used secretly by the Chavez regime to raise funds for whatever purpose it wishes. They said that this practice was initiated by Tobias Nobrega.
But it also agreed during that four-way Skype that former US Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega would have to be consulted first in Washington, DC before Boyd could make the results of his investigation public.
After several days had passed without any response, Boyd decided to publish what he had discovered about Kellmar Ltd, Caplin and the BCV sovereign bond. Other bloggers including Nelson Bocaranda picked up Boyd’s story.
The reports caught the interest of Wall Street Journal reporter Jose de Cordoba, who called Caplin.
Caplin admitted to de Cordoba that he was, indeed, aware of the bond deal-humanitarian projects venture, and that he had decided to participate after receiving an invitation from “a very distinguished law firm.”
By that time, Boyd and Miguel Octavio at Devil’s Excrement had determined that the whole thing was a scam. However, whether or not it was a scam, Central Bank President Nelson Merentes declared in Caracas that he had not signed any such bonds over to Kellmar Ltd.
But curiously, the Chavez regime never investigated the matter. Merentes denied ever signing the alleged bonds and that was it. No further official action was initiated.
Boyd was intrigued, and continued investigating, which resulted in his being “threatened by the person who registered and acts as the lawyer of Kellmar Ltd,” he told Caracas Gringo.
Boyd communicated with Gerbasi et al to inform them “that if things came to court, I would reveal the source of the information, and that the only reason why I decided to publish all along was the presence of Ravell in all this.”
Gerbasi replied that he had been “summoned” to Washington, DC, “basically to get a bollocking from Noriega due to my unilateral decision to go public with the documents,” Boyd said.
“At that point, I started demanding explanations from them as per the reasons for Noriega’s involvement and the reasons why Noriega has to approve anything in the first place,” Boyd said.
Complete silence followed. Gerbasi and his associates never replied. Boyd then told Gerbasi et al, “basically, to not bother me ever again.”
Two weeks ago, “again out of the blue and with the above as background, Gerbasi sends me another PIN asking me about you, as if nothing had happened,” Boyd told me.
“The problem with their little tale is that no two bond emissions can have the same details.” Boyd explained. Indeed, Octavio looked into the case and found that the bonds “were owned by a number of banks,” Boyd added.
“Therefore, Kellmar and Caplin would be truly stupid if they had used that (bond) as collateral to raise finance, especially considering that anyone could check who’s holding parts of the bond” Boyd said.
Readers of this post can see the documents posted at Boyd’s site.
Octavio, whose knowledge and experience of the Venezuelan bond market is encyclopedic, concluded that the alleged deal was a scam with forged documents.
It was certainly not the first time in Venezuela’s history that bogus bonds have surfaced. But questions persist: Who forged these specific documents? Gerbasi’s unguarded remarks indicate that they form part of the alleged trove of “thousands of documents” that are “being analyzed at offices in Spain and Israel.” Why was it necessary to obtain Noriega’s prior approval before Boyd could publish the results of his investigation? But these and other questions are grist for future posts. Today’s post seeks to confirm the existence of direct links between Noriega, Rodil and Gerbasi – in Gerbasi’s own words.
When Gerbasi established his residence in Miami several years ago, he immediately put out feelers in the Venezuelan exile community seeking a personal introduction to Noriega. I’ve spoken in the past week with 10 Venezuelans in Miami who recall being asked explicitly by Gerbasi if they knew Noriega personally, or did they know someone else who could arrange a personal introduction.
Gerbasi finally found the contact who arranged an introduction, and the association blossomed. Gerbasi even sought funding from other Venezuelans for an information operation involving Noriega.
One of the people that Gerbasi reportedly approached seeking funds was Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeno.
Gerbasi reportedly asked Cedeno for $100,000 to jump-start the information operation.
Gerbasi’s pitch to Cedeno was: “Let’s set up a network to gather and pass information to Washington, DC. We’ll set up an office, and work directly with Noriega.” Cedeno declined.
Gerbasi also speaks very enthusiastically about Martin Rodil to many people in Miami’s Venezuelan exile community.
Gerbasi has bragged widely about how his “socio” and “amigo” Rodil is a great source of intelligence about the Chavez regime. Rodil is responsible for the thousands of documents filched out of the Foreign Ministry and other Chavez regime entities, according to Gerbasi.
Gerbasi also is proud of his association with Noriega, telling many of his acquaintances in Miami that he travels to Washington very frequently for meetings with Noriega.
Indeed, Gerbasi apparently is so bound to Noriega that he even parrots Noriega’s biased opinions about individuals that the former assistant secretary of state dislikes, in or out of the US government.
I’ve sent Gerbasi a couple of e-mails and left a voicemail message requesting a chat. But not surprisingly, Gerbasi hasn’t replied, although I’m told he twittered about a ‘gafo’ and ‘pendejo’. Perhaps he’s too busy saving the republic. Fortunately, parts of this post were made possible by Gerbasi’s own unguarded and boastful remarks. Thank you, sir.
That’s all for today, but stay tuned. I’m still writing.