Who’s this guy, with the Melania Knauss lookalike? Oh, just one of the handful of Venezuelans who appear in the Panama Papers, with alleged ties to the government of Hugo Chávez. But, as the following report (by La Iguana TV, via Aporrea) reveals, his actual political ties are to the rabid opposition COPEI and Primero Justicia parties. Which makes it clear why he’s no longer living in Venezuela, and why he’s likely to soon be wanted for questioning by the judicial authorities of that land…
On February 11, 2016, the story of the Industrial Bank of Venezuela (BIV) ended. A resolution by the Superintendency of Institutions of the Banking Sector (SUDEBAN) was the final act for a financial institution born in 1937.
“Approving the anticipated dissolution of the Industrial Bank of Venezuela, C.A., and the cessation of operations and activities of financial intermediation and, in consequence, the beginning of the process of administrative liquidation,” reads Article 1 of the measure, contained in the Official Gazette, no. 40,846.
But the end of the BIV had been written long before. In 2011, the General Comptroller of the Republic (CGR) recommended terminating the “process of intervention” to which the bank had been subject since 2009. The Comptroller advised its “liquidation” to “preserve the interests of the Republic, the stability of the financial system, as well as the rights of savers, depositors, clients and creditors in light of the fact that the bank presented serious problems in terms of economic order, financial order, and budgetary planning during the years 2007 and 2008.”
Millions in losses, interventions and financial rescues by the government every so often were constants for the bank. To the red ink was added poor administration and constant rotation in the BIV’s directorship. In the first eight years of the government of Hugo Chávez, there were eight presidents.
One of them was Leonardo González Dellán, who, according to the Panama Papers of the firm Mossack Fonseca, is a beneficiary of various companies in fiscal paradises. González Dellán was designated by Chávez to direct the BIV in 2002, and was in office until 2004, when he was relieved by Arné Chacón, brother of former minister Jesse Chacón, who was arrested in 2009 in relation to the financial crisis of that year.
The Mossack Fonseca documents, which the German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung of Munich, received from an anonymous source and which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists all over the world under the co-ordination of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), found that González Dellán was linked to offshore corporations ever since his time at the head of the BIV.
An e-mail between executives of the Panamanian company, dated April 4, 2013, left no doubts about the client. “There is a document before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in Venezuela, in which Mr. Leonardo González Dellán figures as representative of the Industrial Bank of Venezuela (BIV). In this document his complete name appears, and his personal identification number, which exactly coincides with the document of our director,” reads the e-mail. It also states that “there could also be found the contact which Mr. Leonardo González Dellán had with Hugo Chávez.”
The first e-mails relating to González Dellán date back to 2010, but the papers of the corporations reveal that he was linked to a company, whose registering agent was Mossack Fonseca, since 2003.
They concern one Blue Crest Holdings, S.A., a company registered in Panama on August 20, 2003. “The authorized capital of the corporation is $10,000 US, legal tender of the United States of America, divided in 100 shares which may be nominative or of the bearer, of a nominal value of $100 US each. The board of directors may permit that the certificates of the bearer be exchanged for certificates in the name of the owner and vice versa”, reads the founding social pact of the company.
On August 21, 2003, four certificates were issued, equivalent to one share each. A fifth certificate for 100 shares was issued to Leonardo González Dellán on July 23, 2014. But the relationship of the former head of the BIV with Blue Crest Holdings S.A. doesn’t end there.
On October 20, 2003, the directors of Blue Crest Holdings S.A., persons assigned by Mossack Fonseca to that end, met in conference in order to “administer the society with no limits whatsoever” to José Ángel González Dellán, brother of the former president of the BIV, and who, according to the National Register of Contractors (RNC), is president of Colosal XX Co-operative Association, R.L., a company which has provided services to the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA — varied services such as “supplying meals”, “construction and remodeling of offices”, and “construction of highways and traffic signage”, among others.
That same day, October 20, a certificate was also issued to Luis Alberto Benshimol, an investment advisor who was linked to various trading firms such as Lemon Casa de Bolsa, in 2003, and later to Bencorp Casa de Bolsa C.A., one of several bailed out by the National Stocks Commission in 2010, after then-minister Jorge Giordani decided to do away with the sector.
As of July 21, 2005, Leonardo González Dellán had the power to administer Blue Crest Holdings S.A., without limitations.
González Dellán’s term at the head of the BIV coincides with the birth of the control of the stock exchange, decreed by Chávez in February 2003, and still in force, as well as the origin of the now-defunct Commission of the Administration of Currency (CADIVI). Several items in El Universal, published between 2003 and 2004, reveal the BIV’s participation at the time.
On December 31, 2002, in the midst of the so-called “Paro Petrolero” (“oil strike”), Jesús Rodolfo Bermúdez, who was vice-minister of finance at the time, went to the BIV to open trusteeships in the name of the Republic: One for $1.5 billion US, via a promissory note of 18 months at 14.5%, another for 700 million bolivars, and a third for $1.413 million.
According to the information at the time, the Ministry of Finance used this means to cancel payment agreements to public organisms and private companies, but “the promissory notes ended up fueling the parallel currency market”, according to El Universal on July 18, 2004. “In other cases, the companies demanded of their clients, principally banks and stock exchanges, that they cancel their notes at 100% of face value, so that the financial institutions would acquire by this means dollars for 1,600 bolivars each, exactly the price which the Executive delivered to the priority sectors of the economy in 2003,” the item adds.
In 2007, the newspaper El Nacional published an item on the administration of the BIV during the Chávez government, in which the path of González Dellán is traced through the institution thus: “Leonardo González Dellán, linked to [the conservative party] COPEI, was named as president of the BIV in November 2002, but left in July 2004. At the time, the arrears had reached 49%.”
In the book “The Great Robbery”, by Carlos Tablante and Marcos Tarre, Leonardo González Dellán is identified as one of the financial “operators” who enriched himself during the Chávez government via dealings in stocks and transactions which allowed him to take advantage of the “exchange rate differential”.
Leonardo González Dellán, son of the former COPEI senator Eudoro González and brother of current [right-wing] Primero Justicia deputy Eudoro González, met Chávez at the beginning of his reign, and ended up forming part of his government. The Mossack Fonseca papers confirm that the relationship between González and the firm, and companies in fiscal paradises, does not end with Blue Crest Holdings. In December of 2010, representatives of J.A. Fernández and Associates, another Panamanian legal firm, representing the ex-president of the BIV, contacted Mossack Fonseca to solicit information over their availability to “reserve” some companies.
“Regarding the aforementioned company, we confirm that the only shareholder is Mr. Leonardo González Dellán, for which reason we request that you draw up a stock certificate for the totality of capital, to be made out to Mr. González Dellán,” reads one e-mail dated December 7, 2010, sent from J.A. Fernández and Associates to the executives of Mossack Fonseca.
The company in question was Rodsal Company Limited, registered by Mossack Fonseca on August 5, 2010, in the British Virgin Islands. “The company is authorized to issue a maximum of 50,000 shares, without nominal value, in the same share class,” reads the company register, whose shareholder up to July 2013 was Leonardo González Dellán. Before that, there had been a change of directors, and finally a certificate for 50,000 shares was issued to Weltrust, a Swiss company, whose registering agent was Python & Peter, until the company was dissolved in November 2015.
The Mossack Fonseca documents prove that the former president of the BIV also acquired, in July 2011, the Gran Rex Alliance company, registered in Panama on May 11, 201, with an authorized capital of $10,000, divided into 10,000 shares of one dollar each. In this case, the papers show that the Uruguayan firm, Estudio Posadas & Vecino Consultores Internacionales, passed along to Mossack Fonseca all the documentation related to the origins of the company.
It was not possible for us to contact González Dellán for this article. However, sources consulted indicated that he is living in Europe. In 2012, the gossip columns widely published news of his wedding in Las Vegas, USA, to former Miss Venezuela and model Aida Yéspica. Information refers to the ex-president of the BIV as a “Venezuelan lawyer”, without further references, but as the photos showed, as well as others divulged by his spouse on social media, they appeared to be enjoying such paradises as St. Tropez, the Balearic Islands [of Spain], and Sicily.
Translation mine. Links added.
It’s worth noting that the lovely Ms. Yéspica is no longer married to him. Apparently there were irreconcilable differences (allegedly, in the shape of Turkish-German soccer star Mesut Özil, among others). The marriage only lasted a year. Womp, womp.
But hey! At least Leonardo still has all those ill-gotten millions to keep him warm, right?
At least, until the federales and Interpol catch up to him. In which case he might want to start literally burning those old papers. Ha, ha.