Photo: Money Mover retrieved

Back in 2015, the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) became subject of an international money laundering investigation, which partly involved “…the development of shell companies and complex financial products to siphon off funds from Venezuela’s public oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)”, according to the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

More than three years later: “A judge in Andorra has charged 28 people, including former officials in Venezuela, with money laundering offenses over a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that plundered $2 billion from the Venezuelan state oil company between 2007 and 2012…

“…14 Venezuelans, including former deputy ministers Nervis Villalobos and Javier Alvarado, as well as Luis Carlos de León-Pérez, a former official at a state-run electric company in Caracas.

The judge places Diego Salazar, the high-powered cousin of Venezuela’s longtime oil czar Rafael Ramírez, at the top of the alleged scheme.”

Villalobos and De León were arrested in Spain last year, at the request of U.S. authorities. He pleaded guilty in a Houston federal court almost two months ago, but Villalobos must first face trial in Spain before being extradited (it was already authorized in January).

Meanwhile, Alvarado is still free and Salazar was arrested in Venezuela last December allegedly for the same case, although it seems more likely to be because of the Maduro-Ramírez rift.

That wasn’t the only development regarding the case in the last few days: Two other former PDVSA officials pleaded guilty in a Houston federal court for their involvement in the case.

Spanish newspaper El País details how the scheme took advantage of the Venezuelan State, through public companies and diplomatic services in order to control public contracts:

“Established by former chavista leaders and functionaries of the State’s oil company, the scheme charged +10% commissions to companies, especially Chinese, that later were favored with PDVSA contracts…

“Through some thirty offshore companies in fiscal paradises like Switzerland or Belize, the funds were moved into Andorra, a country with a population of 78,000, with banking secrecy until last year. In order to avoid suspicions, the group camouflaged their income under the umbrella of advisory works that—according to the investigators—didn’t exist.”

But that could simply be the tip of the iceberg for “The Andorran connection” as The BPA was allegedly involved in another high-profile bribery scheme with regional implications: The one involving Brazilian giant Odebrecht. You know, the one Quico thought was cool. The Andorran judge in charge of the case even went to Lima last year to follow the money trail.

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