Banco Confederado, Banpro, Bolivar Banco: These three banks form part of the Grupo Bolivar whose majority stakeholder of record is Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco.
Baninvest, Central Banco Universal and Banco Real: The majority owners of record are the banking partnership of Pedro Torres Ciliberto and Arne Chacon Escamilla, the brother of Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon Escamilla.
Together, these six banks accounted for 4.48% of the private banking system’s total deposits as of April 2009.
The published financial statements of these six banks are not useful documents for analyzing their operations. However, several conclusions are possible from reviewing five-plus years of financial statements and other open source intelligence (e.g. newspaper reports) about these banks:
These six banks depend on the Chavez government for very substantial portions of their deposits.
They are severely undercapitalized.
All six banks have large sums of their assets – substantially more than their total equity in most cases – in “structured notes.”
Structured notes are to Bolivarian bankers what mortgage derivatives were to Wall Street – essentially suspect, possibly worthless, and perhaps illicit.
The majority owners of record of these six banks are Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, Pedro Torres Ciliberto and Arne Chacon Escamilla. But Sudeban sources claim they are, in truth, intermediaries (testaferros) for other secret shareholders who happen to be the real controlling owners of these banks.
One of these alleged secret shareholders is Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello. Another is said to be former Vice President/Defense Minister & Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel.
Fernandez Barrueco and Torres Ciliberto/Chacon Escamilla position themselves publicly as different financial groups. They seek to project the image of several competing Bolivarian financial groups to distract the attention of potential critics inside and outside the regime.
However, the two financial groups belong to a single financial group whose chairman is the Public Works and Housing Minister.
Fernandez Barrueco and Torres Ciliberto/Chacon Escamilla are currently on a financial acquisitions spree.
In recent weeks, Torres Ciliberto has acquired Banco Real and Helm Bank for $175 million, and Seguros La Previsora for $185 million. He also acquired Mi Banco for a still-undisclosed sum.
Grupo Bolivar just acquired Banco Canarias for an undisclosed sum. The deal reportedly is still pending approval by Sudeban.
However, these two Bolivarian banking groups claim, separately, to have $1 billion apiece on hand to buy more banks, insurance companies and other financial and non-financial companies. That’s $2 billion, combined.
Torres Ciliberto comes from a moneyed family. He inherited wealth, and has expanded that wealth by serving for a very long time as the chief front-man (testaferro) for JVR’s clan.
But Fernandez Barrueco and Arne Chacon went from almost 0 – ZERO – in 1997 and 2002, respectively, to $1.6 billion at end-2005 and $1 billion in 2009, respectively.
In 1997 Fernandez Barrueco owned a parking garage business. But by the end of 2005 he claimed a net worth of over $1.6 billion.
In 2002 Arne Chacon lived in a very humble home in Caracas, but then Torres Ciliberto sold him 49% of Baninvest on credit and Arne’s fortunes soared.
Where did all of this alleged cash – $2 billion – materialize from? Who knows?
A lot of the money appears to be arriving via offshore companies in nearby Curacao, like Fernandez Barrueco’s Galopy Corporation International “patrimonial contributions” to Banco Condeferado – fresh capital which Sudeban for unexplained reasons has declined to approve not once, not twice, but several times.
Why? Again, who knows?
State banking regulator Sudeban isn’t giving any explanations.
But Sudeban certainly is not paying much attention to the origins of all this money being spent to buy banks and insurance companies, either.
Article 19 of the “Ley General de Bancos y Otras Instituciones Financieras” (Banking Law) published in Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria No. 5,892 on Thursday, 31 July 2008 says:
“The request for acquisition must be accompanied by the documents determined by the Superintendency of Banks and Other Financial Institutions. Also, the (buyers of banks and other financial entities) must present to the superintendency…all of the information which (the superintendency) considers necessary to determine the suitability and solvency of the persons entering into the financial activity, the origin of the resources, and the changes in business plans, if that is the case.”
In plain words, Sudeban legally is obligated to investigate the personal and business backgrounds of all individuals seeking to buy a bank or any financial firm including insurers and brokerages.
Sudeban also is obligated to confirm that the funds used to buy banks and other financial entities are legitimate, meaning clean, honestly acquired capital.
But this isn’t happening. Sudeban is laying low.