You Can Have Any Watch You Want, So Long As It's a Rolex

A Wall Street Journal investigation reveals major criminal probes are ongoing into corruption on a quite staggering scale in Rafael Ramírez's PDVSA.

The Wall Street Journal has a major piece by José de Córdoba and Juan Forero about the frugal, nay, Christlike existence of Venezuelan one time PDVSA Czar Rafael Ramírez and his cousin Diego “El Señor de los Relojes” Salazar.

It seems these two left-wing romantics have been up to some not-so-Marxist shenanigans, and neither U.S. nor Spanish authorities are pleased. As in, we’re-launching-full-major-criminal-investigations-on-your-asses not pleased.

The scale of the investigative effort now arrayed against them is quite something,

Earlier this month federal prosecutors from New York, Washington, Missouri and Texas met in person or by teleconference in Washington to coordinate actions and share evidence and witnesses in the various PdVSA-related probes, say three people familiar with the matter. The meeting also included agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, these people say.

So just what sort of hijinks have these two knuckleheads been up to to draw this kind of investigative fire?

Well, let’s see…where to begin?

There’s the one about Salazar demanding $150 million in kickbacks from Spanish construction executives for the right to bid on an electric-power project.

Or the one about the $154 million dollar slush fund of Chinese oil commissions deposited into a Salazar-owned shell company in Panama.

Rafael Ramirez A picture of virtuous probity.
Rafael Ramirez
A picture of virtuous probity.
Diego Salazar Tell me this dude doesn't reek of smarm.
Diego Salazar
Hobbies include helping old ladies cross roads…







Now, if you can’t be bothered to get out of bed for such puny sums, we can always talk about the $1.92 billion (with-a-muthafuckin’-“b”) profit Ramirez made from shady forex arbitrage using PDVSA funds.

Oooh, and don’t forget the up to $3 billion in yearly contracting overcharges that were syphoned off to top PDVSA executives under Ramirez’ watchful eye. That’s right, yearly.

(Here’s where the lawyers really do insist I say “allegedly”. OK – fine! – Allegedly.)

While the revolutionary Ramírez likes to swig from bottles of Château Pétrus, Salazar is busy obsessing over expensive watches and driving his Ferrari around Caracas. Apparently, “he sometimes hands out new Rolexes to people who attend his parties after first ceremonially grinding their old watches into scrap in a mortar and pestle he keeps handy.”

Lindo, ¿no?

I suggest you make yourself a nice cup of hot toddy and set aside some quiet time to sit down to read this one: it’s a veritable Smörgåsbord of crimes, enough to make Sepp Blatter feel like an underachieving wastrel.

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Emiliana Duarte

Emi is a cook, a lover of animals, politics, expletives, and Venezuela. She is the co-founder of Caracas Chronicles LLC and Managing Editor if the site until December 2017.