I wrote a few posts last year about the Ponzi scheme set up by Francisco Illarramendi and his MK funds, which involved money invested from PDVSA’s pension plans (One, Two, Three). Our friend Setty has also devoted a few posts to it, here is one, there are many others. The jist of this case, was that Illarramendi, a former PDVSA adviser and consultant, set up some investment funds that did not work out well and then were involved in a series of complex transactions to hide the losses, which included using PDVSA funds as investments, but also using PDVSA to make transactions. PDVSA pension funds/Savings Plans lost US$ 475 million or so, if my memory serves me right, in the process, but somehow nobody in Venezuela was responsible, as both The Board of PDVSA and the Venezuelan National Assembly found that there was no responsibility for the loss within the company, exonerating every one.
Only in Venezuela and the revolution can there be so much irresponsibility, US$ 475 million missing and it was nobody’s fault.
But today, the receiver for the MK Funds, the funds that were involved in the Ponzi scheme, the man who is in charge of trying to recover the investors money, brought suit in US Court in Connecticut against “Juan Montes, corporate manager of finance, investments and property insurance at PDVSA and its pension funds” for receiving bribes and other fraudulent transfers in the amount of…drum roll…US$ 35,744,561. Yeap, you read it right thirty five million dollars…in bribes…in only five transactions.
Only in Venezuela…
Just to make it clear and put it in black and white: The PDVSA funds lost almost half a billion dollars and just one PDVSA official, functionary, whatever, received bribes in the process for US$ 35.7 million dollars. Pocket change, no? No wonder investigators found nobody responsible.
Such are the ways of the Chavez revolution.
I will not go into all the details of the accusation, you can read the document above, it reads like a detective story, but essentially, Illarramendi is accused of using fake emails and ID’s to have Montes help him in investing the money and setting up the transactions, so that the funds could make money and hide or try to hide the huge losses in his investment funds. Montes took the fifth amendment on all the charges. The case may go to a jury trial.
Other people are mentioned, but not accused, of helping Illarramendi funnel the bribes to Montes through their banks/companies/structures. It does not sound like the case or the story ends here. Stay tuned.
At this point, let me clarify something. In the above document, the receiver, not an expert on Venezuelan financial affairs, mentions the “permutas” made by IIlarramendi’s funds with PDVSA to make money to cover its losses. But these were not “permutas” in the traditional sense, from what I have been able to gather. In the now forbidden “permuta” market, you would swap a bolivar denominated security for a dollar denominated security. But in the defunct “permuta” market, the difference between the “buy” and the “sell” prices was typically small Bs. 0.05 or Bs. 0.1 at most.
But what the receiver seems to be saying is that PDVSA sold dollar securities for Bolivars to Illarramendi’s funds at the official rate of exchange and Illarramendi’s funds resold those dollars at the parallel rate of exchange, essentially arbitraging the Government via PDVSA. The difference was as much as Bs. 4, 5 or even Bs. 6 per dollar depending on when these transactions took place. Just recall that when the Government banned the permuta market, the “official rate” was at Bs. 2.6 per dollar , while the parallel rate was near Bs. 8 per dollar.
And this is where these bribes apparently came from, from the huge difference between the two. Buy a million dollars with Bs. 2.6 million, sell the dollars for say, Bs. 8 per dollar, the difference (8-2.6)=Bs. 5.4 million was pure profit. 207% profit to be more precise.
And we are to believe nobody else knew about this at PDVSA? Only Montes knew? He could have access to “official dollars” with nobody knowing?