A network of ghost companies led by jailed Colombian businessman Alex Saab gets marketing Venezuelan oil to evade the sanctions that the United States imposed on the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in 2019. The information was told in the independent research by the portal Armando.info and the Spanish newspaper El País.
Saab, accused in a US court of being the top money launderer of Maduro, has been in a Cape Verde jail cell since June 12, 2020. After his arrest by two US-issued Interpol warrants, Maduro started pressuring Cape Verde for his release, identifying the man as a Venezuelan national as well as an agent of the Caracas regime in the procurement of food and other essentials.
The investigation, published on both portals Sunday, pointed out that Saab has two main accomplices: Mexican Joaquin Leal, already sanctioned by the US, and the Italian Alessandro Bazzoni, who figures as the head of a company partner of PDVSA, Elemento Ltd., And the scheme has kept on working, even with Saab in an African jail: Armando.info assured that the mechanism to evade the sanctions “is working” and added that, for example, in November of last year “24 oil shipments left Venezuela with 639,000 daily barrels of crude and refined products.”
According to Armando.info, Saab, Leal, and Bazzoni “created a virtual, parallel marketing department, an informal outsourcing for PDVSA.” The article indicated that buying companies get Venezuelan oil on credit or with discounts of between 10 and 15%.
Through companies registered in Mexico, Arab Emirates, and Russia, Venezuelan oil got mobilized through Turkey, Singapore, and even Palestinian territories.
The Mexican company Libre Abordo, which had dealings with the Maduro regime before, and Schlager Business Group, are supposedly linked to Leal. Since mid-2019, these companies have been trading Venezuelan oil as part of a humanitarian agreement.
The company SwissOil Trading, supposedly headed by Bazzoni, was also mentioned as being involved in the scheme.
“Swissoil Trading, the commodities seller, represented by the Italian Alessandro Bazzoni, transports it to Asian ports -mainly Singapore, China, and Malaysia- according to numerous cargo vouchers that have been accessed,” says the investigation. Also, the report highlighting that the shipping documents omit that it is Venezuelan crude.
Instead, they placed “the companies that resold the oil as owners,” so they could market themselves without problems.
“The vessels in charge of the transport operations, both with the Mexican and Russian companies were the tankers Lion King, Delta Kanaris, Delta Harmony, Melody, Perfect, Azimuth, Commodore, Euro force and Athens Voyager,” the report said, adding that the last two vessels have already been sanctioned by the US.
In this manner, the investigation pointed out the network has tried to fill the “vacuum” left by the main partners of PDVSA after the US sanctions got applied as a form of pressure for Maduro to leave power in Venezuela.
Saab was arrested on June 12, 2020 when the plane in which he was traveling stopped to refuel at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the Cape Verdean island of Sal and after a request from the United States through Interpol for alleged money laundering.
A month later, the Cape Verdean justice system authorized his extradition to the United States, a decision that his defense immediately appealed.
On January 4, the Appeal Court from Barlavento decided to proceed with the extradition to the US.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.