The $10 Million Shakedown: Rafael Ramírez Sued Over Speed Money

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Original art by @modográfico

AP’s Joshua Goodman — who’s been on quite a streak lately — has yet another twist in the schadenfreude-rich demise of Rafael Ramírez. Two companies, Harvest Natural Resources, Inc. and HNR Energia B.V., have brought a civil suit against Ramírez, his disgraced protegée Eulogio del Pino, “consultant” José Mendoza García and three maletín-based companies related to Mendoza García: Petro Consultores (cool name!), S.C., Petro Consultores International Trading Company, Inc., Azure 904 LLC.

Harvest alleges that the defendants solicited a $10 million dollar bribe from the company in 2013. Back then, Harvest intended to sell its stake in empresa mixta Petrodelta, S.A. to Indonesia’s state-owned oil company, Pertamina. Under Venezuelan law, private shareholders of empresas mixtas, such as Harvest at the time, need authorization from the Oil Ministry to sell its shares to a third party. Harvest claims that Ramírez and his middlemen used their power to extort them:

In the new lawsuit, Harvest Natural Resources alleges that starting in 2012, it refused a $10 million bribe demand from a Florida-based oil consultant who said he was acting in the name of Ramírez, then PDVSA’s president and Venezuela’s Oil Minister. The company had reached an agreement to sell its stake in a joint venture with PDVSA for $725 million to Indonesia’s state-owned Pertamina.

Harvest claims that as a result of its refusal to pay up, Ramírez failed to approve the sale and the deal fell through. The complaint cited press reports in which Ramirez was quoted as saying that Venezuela was still analyzing the proposed sale and that ‘both the buyer and seller know what they need to do in order to obtain government approval…’

Harvest also says that Ramírez thwarted a second attempt to sell shares to Argentine oil company Pluspetrol. This was, allegedly, in retaliation for not paying a “bonus” requested by Del Pino:

In 2013, Harvest says, it found another buyer, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, but was once again blocked by a similar pay-to-play scheme, the complaint charges. Ramírez’s successor as PDVSA chief, Eulogio del Pino, sent a letter to Harvest in which he allegedly called for payment of a ‘bonus’ to the Oil Ministry, then headed by Asdrúbal Chávez, a cousin of Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

But who’s behind Harvest in the first place? Information available online information shows that Harvest Natural Resources, Inc. was incorporated in Houston in 1988, and it has only 16 employees. They signed an operating agreement with PDVSA in 1992, replaced by the creation of Petrodelta in 2006, following Chavez’ ending of the Apertura Petrolera’s operating agreements and their replacement by the incorporation of Empresas Mixtas.

According to reports, Harvest had a tense relationship with PDVSA since then. It ended up selling its shares to Pluspetrol’s entity Petroandina, and to Delta Petroleum NV for a total of $255 million in 2016. Delta is connected to businessman Oswaldo Cisneros and Derwick “businessman” (not to mention Henry Ramos Allup’s brother-in-law), Francisco D’Agostino.

Harvest is suing before a Texas federal court, for the difference between the price it would’ve obtained if the approval hadn’t been illegally withheld ($725 million) and the price they actually got. We don’t know how this will end, but Ramírez’ need for a gofundme is starting to look a lot less like a joke.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Claudio Rodriguez: figure out who is “official A” in the indictment and you will be on your own journalistic “hot streak”. My guess is that Maduro is official A.

  2. The US Government itself can’t catch dozens of Kleptozuelan crooks including major drug dealers, and 2 little companies hope to snatch Ramirez with some civil suit for extortion? Ramirez is laughing all the way to his numerous banks with multiple accounts, under various names for all friends and family.

    BTW, I insist that it’s not that TibiBitch lost some weight. It’s Del Pino who had a sex change operation to hide his own stolen fortune. Look at the pictures side by side and be the judge.

  3. The civil lawsuit poses some problems for Maduro. He cannot defend himself without exposing himself to the US criminal indictment which means the civil plaintiffs will get a default judgement which they can use to discover any Ramurez money tucked away in the US. I know Ramirez has bigger problems than the civil lawsuit but it is not a nothing burger. He is now the hunted both in Venezuela and in the US. I wonder if he has any information about the identity of official A in the indictment.

  4. This one ain’t going nowhere.

    “Nothing to see here, folks. Please move on.”

    No one gives a shit about Harvest, and in the grand scheme of Chavista corruption things, this is kids’ stuff.

  5. I would not be so sure as Ira about this suit against Ramirez and del Pino being insignificant. Although it is true that Harvest is now a skeleton company it is also true that PERTAMINA and PLUS PETROL, both bigger entities, confirm the existence of an attempt at extorsion made to them by the PDVSA former managers. If I am not mistaken this is the first legal action in which Ramirez and del Pino are especifically charged with extorsion, confirming the more general report by the Wall Street Journal about Ramirez published a few years ago. The case against del Pino in the document is somewhat weak, although more precise documents and witnesses could come to light during the trial itself. This is one more nail in the coffin for the gangsters.

  6. Don’t forget that the US “Intelligence” agencies were said to have hacked PDVSA’s web site as early as 2005, perhaps before even that, depending on who you ask – and believe. If true, they probably had the drop on personal accounts and cell phones, so it’s likely they have a lot of unconfirmed but probable cases against scores of folks. Wonder why they haven’t moved on this earlier. Perhaps they should conveniently “leak” all of this intel – if indeed they have it – and let the good times roll.

  7. This just in from the Washington Post:

    “If Maduro does not change course on the April vote, or pledge himself to a transparent election with foreign monitors, an embargo of some kind is highly likely, the official said.”

    Trump is unlikely to do something that will cost the US anything substantial, but unless he acts in some way, the bill for humanitarian relief will be staggering (it will already), and taking no action will portray Trump as having no balls. Problem, of course, is balancing the immediate crisis an embargo would trigger (and the human misery) with continued idling and letting Maduro having his way.

    Another thing is, the unwritten rule is that nobody ever gets away with saying “Fuck you!” the the POTUS. Castro and Chavez did just that. Judging on what the US did with Cuba – reducing the island to international beggars and nearly starving them out several times – Trump is no so worried about causing further hardships for Venezuelans, which might be wrong but I doubt it.

    Some kind of showdown feels near. At this point Maduro is so weak and dictatorial that anyone backing him now comes off as corrupt or insane.

    • Chavez did a total Fuck You to GW Bush, which pleased the American media, hollywoood, etc. and made Chavez a star. If there was a Fuck you aimed at Obama, I don’t remember it (and it would not have been reported in any event). The entire media and American left spends every waking moment screaming Fuck You at Trump, so Maduro needs to get in a long line.

    • Venezuela is so far down the radar of things going on that the American public cares about or even knows about, Trump won’t be facing pressure do anything. Most likely you’ll see a few more sanctions but nothing that would change the situation.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “f you” to USA president. Last summer Trump publicly told Kim Jong UN that if he threatened the USA again he would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Less than 48 hours later North Korea fired missiles over Japan that landed near Guam (a US island), and Kim Jong Un said they were in preparation for annihilating that island. Nothing of significance happened in response (except Twitter posts).

      My point in the above example is simply that you can get away with saying “f you” to the President, depending on the situation, in other words the Prez isn’t forced to take action taken if the American public doesn’t care or if he has no meaningful options. Then again, Trump has thus far refused to apply sanctions on Russia he’s legally mandated to by congress (in response to their electoral and continuing meddling), so maybe normal rules don’t apply anymore.

  8. I disagree. And it’s not simply a matter of public opinion, but respect for the office. Castro said Fuck You and the American government let that island starve and remain in a basic state of dysfunction for decades. All efforts to lift sanctions were shot down not just by resentful Ex-Cubanos, but because nobody liked the tin horned Fidel. So they let him and Cuba molder in obscurity. The problem with Venezuela is that the humanitarian crisis is going to get horrific soon if something isn’t done, the millions fleeing the crisis will soon start to overwhelm surrounding countries, and the titanic cost of righting the ship will have to be born by other countries because Maduro can only make things worse. So no matter how we look at the political drivers behind it, standing by and watching will soon no longer be an option because the fall out will tank the whole region.

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