UPDATED – Swiss authorities confirm U.S. investigating Derwick Associates
Bloomberg this morning (bold / links added for clarity):
Swiss banks have a new money-laundering worry: Venezuela.
At the request of U.S. authorities, Switzerland has agreed to turn over records from at least 18 banks involving Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which is the subject of a widening corruption investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Swiss regulators.
Among the banks are UBS AG, EFG Bank AG and CBH Compagnie Bancaire Helvetique SA, said a person briefed on the matter.
The Swiss bank records are being sought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in connection with his office’s investigation into representatives of Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan energy company that has done business with PDVSA, the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) in Bern said. Bharara’s request means that records of any wire transactions between the 18 banks and individuals or companies suspected of bribery or other criminal conduct in Venezuela will be given to federal prosecutors in New York.
The U.S. investigation has already led to criminal charges, including guilty pleas from three former PDVSA officials that were unsealed in Houston on Tuesday, according to court documents. The three — Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 38; Christian Javier Maldonado Barillas, 39, and Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz, 39 — admitted to accepting bribes and helping two businessmen win lucrative contracts from the state-owned company. The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The Swiss authorities’ statement is the first official confirmation of the existence of a U.S. investigation into Derwick Associates. The company has denied allegations lodged in civil suits that it bribed officials from PDVSA in order to obtain lucrative contracts. No criminal charges have been filed against Derwick.
Joseph DeMaria, a lawyer for a Barbados affiliate of Derwick, and its two co-founders, said he wasn’t aware of the investigation, but said that any probe by U.S. authorities is part of a “continuous witch hunt” against his clients.
Pop corn time draws ever closer…
PS: Switzerland Department of Justice and Police confirmed to Finews that US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is specifically asking for information on PDVSA - Derwick Associates deals.
PPS: journalist Casto Ocando claims (Twitter) that New York’s Attorney’s Office sent a subpoena to Derwick Associates executives, demanding information about wire transactions.
PPPS: Reuters weighs in.