Another Bolivarian ‘businessman’ bites the dust: when will turn of Derwick Associates come?

Now it’s official: Roberto Rincon, one of these so called successful Bolivarian entrepreneurs (also known as Boligarchs), was arrested recently in Houston, on money laundering and corruption charges.

Magistrate Nancy K. Johnson claimed in the Order of Detention, stuff like:

From 2009 through 2014, over one billion dollars was traced to this conspiracy. Of that amount, $750,000,000 was traced to Rincon between 2010 and 2013. Rincon paid bribes in the amount of $2,500,000 to one official alone.

Let me give a bit of background here. Contracting and procurement in Venezuela has always been the domain of the utterly corrupt. If no bribes are paid, there are no contracts to be had with the State. Before Hugo Chavez came to power corruption was rampant. One of his campaign’s rallying cries was, precisely, to put a stop on it. But then price of oil went from around $8 to over $100. Venezuela, being a petrostate, got a phenomenal amount of oil income, hard to quantify in precise terms but well into the trillions, all of it managed irresponsibly without restraint, control or oversight.

From what seemed like an endless fountain of no-sweat money, opportunities for cost overuns in procurement contracts became policy, and many actors, both local and foreign, got in the action. Rincon was just one of such players. He made the right government contacts, and he got his many companies and proxies to win over a billion worth of contracts. That he paid $2.5 million to one official is not something out of the ordinary. Considering, for instance, that Spain’s Duro Felguera paid Nervis Villalobos (PDVSA’s CEO bagman) $50 million to get a contract, what Rincon paid to that official is pocket change, for there’s also that other allegation about Diosdado Cabello (Chair of Venezuela’s Congress) having received a $50 million bribe from Derwick Associates. So far so Venezuelan.

OFAC designated kingpin Hugo Carvajal

But then Rincon got friendly with Hugo Carvajal, singled out by the U.S. Treasury for “materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a narco-terrorist organization.” This Carvajal fellow was then appointed as Venezuelan Ambassador to Aruba, and got arrested upon landing by DEA agents in July this year. The intention was to extradite him to the U.S. to face charges such as drug trafficking, money laundering, aiding and abetting terrorists, etc. A diplomatic quarrel, between Venezuela, the Netherlands and the U.S., followed. Ultimately Carvajal was released: Venezuela basically managed to win in the pressure stakes game with the U.S.

USA v. Rincon-Fernandez et al.

But then again, did it? Rincon was involved in this saga. Carvajal flew to Aruba in Rincon’s private jet. Carvajal flew back to Venezuela -to a hero’s welcome- with Rincon, again in the latter’s plane. According to sources Rincon and Carvajal had been trying to gain control -through CITGO- of a refinery in Aruba.

From right: Venezuela’s First Lady (Cilia Flores), Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela’s Foreign Sec. (Elias Jaua), and Governor Tareck el Aissami.

None of it was to happen. With Rincon’s arrest -bail denied- the prospect of a long jail sentence looms. This action can’t be taken in isolation however, for sources have admitted, extraofficially, that many Venezuelan Boligarchs are actively collaborating with U.S. federal authorities precisely to avoid Rincon’s fate. Alejandro Andrade, Victor Vargas, Rafael Isea, Leamsy Salazar, Nervis Villalobos, Javier Alvarado and others are, allegedly, singing like there’s no tomorrow, in a desperate attempt to keep freedom and, more importantly, ill gotten wealth. Different probes are being pursued by different federal agencies, for there are billions at stake.

Rincon is meant to have breached the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and is charged of money laundering. Rincon was until recently a legal resident of the United States. As Judge Johnson claimed, over one billion dollars were “traced” to Rincon’s conspiracy.

So what to make of Derwick Associates then? Rincon’s got about one billion worth of contracts from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), but Derwick got even more, about $1.3 billion, according to former ProEnergy Services management.

Former manager of ProEnergy leak.

The source that leaked the information above, also claim that federal agencies were investigating possible FCPA violations of ProEnergy operations, and its subcontracting in Venezuela, which was all done through Derwick Associates, since 2012.

Derwick is hard at work laundering all that stolen money. From their new base in Spain, they are going into oil (with Pacific and Harvest Natural Resources) and banking (in Africa, of all places…).

Pictured Diosdado Cabello.

So if Rincon is in the dock and his assets in the U.S. are being seized, when will U.S. authorities start indicting ProEnergy and Derwick Associates suspects? If Rincon’s links to drug kingpin Hugo Carvajal is what prompted U.S. authorities into investigating and ultimately arresting him, when will something be done about Derwick Associates, considering their links and relations with capo dei capi Diosdado Cabello?


I have been researching and writing about corruption since 2002: first in vcrisis.com, then in blogger.com, Semana (Colombia), El País (Spain), La Prensa (Panama), Tax Justice Network, etc. The last site I launched, infodio.com, was banned by the Venezuelan regime. You can follow me on Twitter and Medium.