Jose Ignacio Hernandez has raked in lucrative fees as a legal mercenary for the corporate looters of Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company. His recent resignation as “attorney general” in Guaidó’s shadow administration raised serious questions about possible ethical and legal violations.
By Anya Parampil
Below the radar of US media, a district court in Florida tossed out a multibillion-dollar bribery case in March 2018 thanks to testimony delivered by a former member of the shadow administration of Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó.
That ex-official, Jose Ignacio Hernandez, served as attorney general in the US-backed Guaidó junta until July of this year. As this investigation will reveal, Hernandez’s testimony was bought and paid for by foreign oil giants with an interest in defrauding Venezuela’s state petroleum company out of billions of dollars.
These corporate titans, which included some of the world’s largest oil companies, bribed corrupt officials within Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-run Venezuelan oil company, to rig contracts in their favor.
In 2018, a litigation trust set up by the Venezuelan government filed a suit against the oil companies and their collaborators seeking billions of dollars in damages for their corrupt dealings. The case marked one of the most expensive civil suits in recent US legal history.
Despite copious evidence including bank records, emails, and testimony by the family members of oil company consultants accused of enabling the massive heist, the case was thrown out on a technicality by a Southern Florida district court. The expert witness brought before the court to delegitimize the Venezuelan government’s case was Hernandez, an opposition-affiliated lawyer.
By this point, Hernandez had become one of the most reliable paid experts for corporations battling Venezuela in court. As this reporter previously revealed, he supplied testimony to the Canadian mining firm Crystallex to support the company’s legal fight against Venezuela’s government.
Hernandez also reaped a $163,000 payment from the OI European Group in exchange for his testimony against Caracas. In the PDVSA Litigation Trust case that was dismissed in 2019, he was paid $350 per hour from a who’s who of the oil industry for his analysis.
Hernandez was therefore raking in hefty fees from the enemies of the same Venezuelan state he would later claim to represent when he assumed the position of “attorney general” in Guaidó’s shadow administration. His lucrative relationships with foreign corporations scheming to exploit Venezuela’s wealth lift the mask on the real forces behind Guaidó’s regime-change efforts, and their ulterior, profit-driven agenda. They also raise serious questions about whether he violated US law.
In August 2019, Jorge Alejandro Rodríguez, a Venezuelan engineer and Guaidó critic who currently serves as political secretary for the Venezuelan opposition party Progressive Advance (Avanzada Progresista), announced he had filed a formal request with the US Justice Department to investigate Hernandez for his work on the Crystallex case.
“We have reasons to believe that [Hernandez’s conduct] is something to be investigated,” Rodríguez told The Grayzone. He raised the possibility that the lawyer had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibiting US citizens and entities from bribing foreign government officials to benefit their business interests.
On July 18, 2020, Hernandez became the latest “official” representing Venezuelan opposition leader Guaidó in the United States to resign. While he offered no explanation for the sudden departure, the announcement followed an embarrassing disclosure broadcast to the Venezuelan public on state media that day.
Venezuela’s opposition outs Jose Ignacio Hernandez and his World Bank collaborators
The sudden departure of Jose Ignacio Hernandez from Juan Guaidó’s US-recognized shadow regime came hours after Venezuela’s vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, released incriminating audio of Hernandez’s recent testimony before the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Vicepresidenta ejecutiva, Delcy Rodríguez presentó audio de la vinculación del Director del Banco Mundial con el falso procurador, José Ignacio Hernández.#MáximaMoralPatriótica pic.twitter.com/NComdkDjOW
— Cancillería Venezuela 🇻🇪 (@CancilleriaVE) June 18, 2020
In the June 3 recording, the Venezuelan lawyer admitted to opposition lawmakers affiliated with the National Assembly’s energy commission that he “directed a strategy” regarding Venezuela’s legal fights with corporate multinational giants. He was referring specifically to coordination with the International Centre of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank, including “direct” collaboration with the office of World Bank President David Malpass.
The confession placed the authority of the World Bank’s ICSID as a supposedly neutral arbitrator of international investment disputes in severe jeopardy.
It also raised questions about whether Malpass had violated the rules of his employer. As the articles of agreement for the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development stated, the bank and “its officers shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member or members concerned.” But that appears to be exactly what the president had done.
Notably, several opposition groups have refused to participate in National Assembly commissions, meaning only lawmakers representing the so-called “G4” opposition parties (Un Nuevo Tiempo, Primero Justicia, Acción Democrática, and Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular) were present for Hernandez’s testimony.
This means that unless Venezuela’s government somehow spied on the meeting, the audio had to have been leaked either by Hernandez’s own associates or by Hernandez himself.
Rather than deny its authenticity, Hernandez responded to the audio leak by chastising his allies for apparently furnishing it to Venezuela’s government.
The leak was “only possible if there is internal complicity,” Hernandez tweeted moments after the Venezuelan government exposed his confession.
Que el régimen de Maduro me ataque es deplorable pero normal. Que lo hagan filtrando un audio de la Comisión de Energía de la AN es grave, pues eso solo es posible si hay complicidad interna. De los mismos que se han opuesto a mi gestión como Procurador.
— Jose I. Hernandez G. (@ignandez) June 18, 2020
Hernandez went on to announce his resignation from Guaidó’s shadow administration a mere five hours later, on the evening of July 18.
El 28 de mayo, luego de semanas de conversaciones, renuncié al cargo de Procurador. La intención era hacer el anuncio la semana que viene con la designación del nuevo equipo. El régimen de Maduro sabía de mi renuncia al cargo de Procurador, y por ello, montó esta nueva campaña. pic.twitter.com/Ykugk1ezxh
— Jose I. Hernandez G. (@ignandez) June 18, 2020
Bizarrely, the lawyer claimed to have submitted his departure letter weeks earlier on May 28 – a possible attempt to downplay the significance of the audio.
Jorge Alejandro Rodríguez, the engineer and critic of Guaidó (who is not related to the Venezuelan government minister Jorge Rodríguez nor Vice President Delcy Rodríguez), questioned the odd timing of the letter on Venezuelan national radio. Rodríguez even offered $1,000 USD to anyone to anyone who could prove Hernandez did in fact resign on May 28.
“This is the second time Mr. Hernandez surprised public opinion with a statement such as, ‘I already did so and so,'” Rodríguez remarked to The Grayzone. “We must remember the sad episode of his alleged and never clarified recusal from the Crystallex case.”
Indeed, after it was revealed that he had previously served as an expert witness in Crystallex’s legal fight against the Venezuelan government, Hernandez claimed to have recused himself from the case upon taking office as “attorney general” – but only did so retroactively.
Notice he doesn’t recuse himself from the case, only from “conversations” w Crystallex.
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) September 5, 2019
During the Venezuelan government press conference revealing the existence of the fateful recording, Vice President Rodríguez accused World Bank President Malpass of “collusion” with Hernandez’s office, which she denounced as nothing more than “a criminal corporation that loots Venezuelan assets.”
A review of the ICSID website reveals 16 pending cases lodged against Venezuela’s government. Claimants include corporate giants such as Koch Industries, Air Canada, and ConocoPhillips. When Hernandez sloppily boasted about hatching “a strategy” with ICSID and the office of the World Bank President, it would have been regarding these pending cases.
But was Hernandez strategizing on behalf of the government which he posed as representing, or the corporate vultures vying for a slice of Venezuela’s internationally-stored wealth? Based on his history, one would have to conclude the latter.
The scandal over the leaked audio of Hernandez was only the latest to rock the office of Guaidó’s “attorney general.” In the summer of 2019, he was revealed to have supplied testimony to the Canadian mining firm Crystallex in order to support the company’s legal fight against Venezuela’s government before taking over as the most powerful legal representative of that government in the eyes of US courts.
Additionally, as previously documented by this reporter, Hernandez received a $163,000 payment from yet another corporation suing Venezuela’s government, OI European Group, in exchange for his testimony against that government.
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) December 27, 2019
Considering the nakedly corrupt nature of Hernandez’s conduct as “attorney general,” the recent audio leak was exactly what was needed to nudge him out of “public office”. And the story of his perfidy might have ended there.
But it turned out that Hernandez’s relationship with corporations like Crystallex, Ol European Group, and the incriminating audio leak represented just the surface level of his shady dealings.
The lawyer not only conspired to liquidate his country’s most prized international possession; he was also at the center of perhaps one of the highest valued cases currently awaiting a decision in US courts.
In that trial, Hernandez was working to protect some of the largest energy companies in the world from punishment for their successful scheme to defraud his homeland out of more than $15 billion dollars.
The shocking scheme represented the legacy of a Venezuelan oil industry that remained infected with corruption despite decades of struggle to bring it under control.
A petro-state’s blessing and curse
Long before the election of former army colonel Hugo Chávez Frías in 1998, Venezuela was considered one of the world’s premier petrostates.
Since the discovery of black gold in Venezuela nearly 100 years ago, foreign companies have sought to control the country’s oil supply — today considered to be the largest reserves in the world.
For decades, that meant global petroleum giants colluded with Venezuela’s local elite to exploit the country’s reserves with little to no return for the domestic population.
President Carlos Andrés Pérez first attempted to stand up to the exploitative dynamic in 1976 when he moved to nationalize the country’s oil industry, giving birth to Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
But Perez’s hope of harnessing Venezuela’s oil wealth in order to develop the country was ill fated. The oil slump of the 1980s coupled with neoliberal policies of succeeding administrations (including Pérez’s second term from 1989 to 1993) meant that, by the mid-1990s, foreign oil companies had comfortably returned to Venezuela — and inequality was running rampant.
These conditions set the stage for Chávez’s election in 1998. His Bolivarian Revolution ushered in a new constitution and a litany of reforms which left no aspect of the nation untouched, including its beating heart as a “petrostate”: PDVSA.
Chávez needed access to the state’s lucrative oil coffers in order to fund his vision for what he would eventually come to call “21st-Century Socialism.” To do so, he had to reverse the neoliberal policies of his predecessors which had allowed foreign interests to dominate Venezuela, and finish the job of socializing the oil industry.
Early in 2002, Chávez took aim at PDVSA with a decision to fire its entire board. Venezuela’s oligarchy retaliated by launching an oil strike which crippled the country’s economy, even initiating a failed coup against the socialist leader by April of that year.
Though Chávez ultimately crushed the strike and asserted more state control over PDVSA, the task of weeding out corruption within the country’s decades-old petroleum industry proved a daunting task.
Exposing a blockbuster criminal bribery scheme
As Hugo Chávez tightened the state’s grip on Venezuela’s oil industry, firing thousands of PDVSA and CITGO employees, a growing number of former industry apparatchiks fled abroad. In 2004, two such PDVSA rejects, Francisco Morillo and Leonardo Baquero, relocated from Caracas to Miami, Florida, where they set up shop for their energy advisory and trading company, Helsigne Inc.
Morillo and Baquero had established Helsigne Inc. in Caracas three years before, having previously worked as PDVSA traders (the circumstances of their exits remain unknown).
According to its website, Helsigne Inc. specializes “in physical trade of energy and petrochemicals products,” with expertise “in other areas of the energy sector, including exploration, storage, business intelligence and risk management.”
Under the cover of their energy consulting firm, Morillo and Baquero oversaw a multibillion-dollar bribery and bid-rigging scheme, the details of which came to light in a US court over two years ago.
In March 2018, a litigation trust established by the Venezuelan government to investigate the massive corruption plot filed a lawsuit against Helsinge, Morrillo, Baquero, multiple international energy companies, and several banks, as well as numerous individuals involved in enabling the theft.
The initial complaint, which reads like a pitch for a blockbuster crime drama, explained how Baquero and Morillo set up a series of shell companies in Panama, then used Helsigne as a go-between for large international energy giants and corrupt PDVSA officials in order to defraud the company out of billions of dollars.
According to the document, “in 2004, Morillo and Baquero leveraged their contacts within” PDVSA, entering “into an illicit agreement with several business managers… whereby Morillo and Baquero would pay the PDVSA employees bribes in exchange for advance and confidential information concerning PDVSA’s future tenders for its purchases and sales of hydrocarbon products and the bids made by competing oil traders.”
In other words, the oil companies were not simply contracting Helsigne for “consulting” services — they were actually paying Morillo and Baquero for their ability to gain insider information about PDVSA’s future contracts.
The companies deposited cash in Helsinge’s Panama accounts, through which Morillo and Baquero paid bribes to PDVSA officials working in the company’s Commercial and Supply Department.
“Shortly before or after the payment of these bribes, the Oil Company Conspirators would receive the advance PDVSA tender information and their competitors’ competing bids so that the Oil Company Conspirators were assured to win their choice of PDVSA contracts,” the PdVSA complaint stated.
It asserted that “the bribed PDVSA Employees modified PDVSA tenders such that only the Oil Company Conspirators and Helsinge could meet the tenders’ requirements” and even “rejected competitive bids from market competitors.”
The conspiracy was double edged. Not only did the oil companies defraud PDVSA as it attempted to sell its oil on the market, they also rigged bids regarding PDVSA’s purchase of petroleum solvents and light crude products required in order to refine its heavy crude.
The effect of the scheme was that from 2004 on, the oil companies “purchas[ed] PDVSA products at artificially low prices; and [sold] products and services to PDVSA at artificially high prices,” according to the complaint.
The complaint further alleges that Helsigne “induced” the bribed PDVSA employees “not to collect the full amounts due to PDVSA for the sale of PDVSA products to the Oil Company Conspirators and to overlook the failure of the Oil Company Conspirators to deliver the full amount of products bought and paid for by PDVSA.”
This means that despite the fact the oil companies were already paying for PDVSA oil at a deflated price and selling it products at an inflated price, they would routinely fail to hold up their end of contracts— compounding the financial harm inflicted on PDVSA.
The complaint concluded that “as a result of Defendants’ fraudulent scheme, PDVSA has suffered billions of dollars in losses.”
A source familiar with the case estimated the damage amounts to be upwards of $15 billion.
According to the legal complaint, the oil industry racket “prevent[ed] companies, including many legitimate American companies, from competing for PDVSA’s business,” while conspirators “adversely affected the flow of commerce between the United States and Venezuela.”
In 2005, just a year into their scheme, Morillo and Baquero teamed up with a corrupt PDVSA employee named Luis Liendo, who worked under the alias “The Nerd,” to set up a “clone server” within PDVSA’s computer system. The system allowed them “to obtain ‘real time’ access to PDVSA’s information” as well as “[steal] PDVSA’s electronic communications and confidential information stored on the PDVSA computer system.”
Evidence backing up these claims is attached to the legal complaint and can be read here.
To investigate the scheme, the PDVSA Litigation Trust enlisted the services of a former Scotland Yard Senior Detective named John Brennan (not the former US CIA Director) who founded a private intelligence firm called The Brennan Group LLC.
Brennan was able to confirm the extent of the crime through interviews with Morillo’s estranged wife, Vanessa Friedman.
In his declaration to the court, Brennan noted how Friedman claimed that her husband “and the people he associates with are extremely violent people,” alleging he had acted “violently towards her” and “began associating with individuals whom she believes were involved in drug trafficking.”
After she successfully locked him out of their home, Brennan explained, “Morillo then began a campaign of terror against his estranged wife” saying she “received a number of threats from individuals whom she believes were connected to Morillo” demanding “she give up the laptop computer” they shared.
Brennan told the court that Friedman was “confronted on multiple occasions in Caracas by individuals making demands on behalf of Morillo for return of the laptop and other documents.” She was even “the subject of an attempted kidnapping.”
But the intimidation did not succeed. Friedman eventually handed the laptop over to investigators, which Brennan said “[contained] literally thousands of instant messages, e-mail communications, bank records, and other documents evidencing details of the conspiracy.”
One email exchange provided a stark illustration of the effort to establish the clone server within PDVSA’s office, including instructions on how to set it up.’
A bank ledger submitted to the court documented over $430,000 worth of payments Morillo made to an individual listed as “Gigante”— whom Brennan identified as “the father-in-law of a corrupt PDVSA employee Rene Hecker.” The payments offered only a small window into the full extent of the bribery, as the massive sum was paid out over the course of a short four month period in 2004.
At the time of the complaint’s submission to the court in March of 2018, Brennan stated, “Hecker remains to this day one of the prime contacts for Morillo within PDVSA, his current role being Head of the PDVSA Joint Venture with Chevron.”
In another email chain attached to the complaint, Brennan described how “Morillo and senior Glencore traders [discussed] how to manipulate PDVSA’s tender offer for the purchase of Russian crude oil so as to advantage a bid by Glencore.”
These are just a few examples of the explosive pieces of evidence Brennan was able to obtain on behalf of the PDVSA Litigation Trust and submit to the court.
Taken together, the information appeared to prove the existence of a vast conspiracy and demonstrated the depths the conspirators resorted to to carry out their criminal scheme.
Yet just one year after the case was filed, in March of 2019, Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes dismissed the lawsuit.
Considering the mountain of evidence presented to the court and the scale of the crime, her decision was puzzling. It seemed that the only plausible explanation for it was the testimony provided by Juan Guaidó’s former “Attorney General,” Jose Ignacio Hernandez.
A legal mercenary goes to bat again for Venezuela’s corporate looters
As this reporter has documented in detail, Hernandez provided expert witness testimony for at least two foreign corporations — Crystallex and OI European Group — in their legal battles against Venezuela’s government.
As Guaidó’s Attorney General, Hernandez went on to take several actions which supported the companies’ legal arguments against Venezuela’s government, leading to favorable rulings for both firms.
Thanks to Hernandez’s questionable legal maneuvers, CITGO Petroleum, Venezuela’s most valuable international asset, is due to be liquidated in order to satisfy the multi-billion dollar arbitration claims against Caracas.
Yet Hernandez’s long record as a legal mercenary representing foreign corporations seeking to loot Venezuela’s wealth was not limited to the Crystallex and OI European Group lawsuits.
Buried within the 721 documents and thousands of pages that comprised the court docket of the PDVSA Litigation Trust lawsuit against individuals and corporations involved in the Helsinge scheme, Hernandez’s name surfaced once again.
In August of 2018 — just five months before Guaidó appointed Hernandez as his top legal representative in the United States — the oil company conspirators charged in the Helsinge bid-rigging scheme sought out the young lawyer’s expertise in order to save their skins in court.
Hernandez’s task was not to prove the oil companies were innocent, but to invalidate the case brought against them by arguing the PDVSA Litigation Trust which collected the evidence and assembled the lawsuit “was not valid under Venezuelan law.”
To make his case, Hernandez argued the Trust was improper due to the fact it was created by several officials, including then-Oil Minister Nelson Martinez, who “did not have the authority to enter into a contract to assign claims on behalf of PDVSA or its affiliates.”
For his labor, Hernandez stated the oil company conspirators’ paid him $350 an hour. He insisted that his fee was “not contingent on any particular conclusion or outcome” in the case, as though the lucrative fee did not influence his analysis.
Essentially, Hernandez and the oil companies hoped to defeat the Helsigne suit based on the technical argument that the PDVSA Litigation Trust which brought the case in the first place was illegitimate.
Their strategy was a smashing success. As the dismissal of the Helsinge case, filed on March 8, 2019, stated: “Judge Otazo-Reyes, relying on the testimony of Professor Jose Ignacio Hernandez, found that the Trust Agreement was void under Venezuelan law.”
By that point, Hernandez was serving as Venezuela’s “Attorney General” in the United States. As the supposed top lawyer of the Venezuelan state, it should have been in his interest to prove that a massive fraud had been perpetrated against PDVSA and Venezuela as a whole. This would have allowed the state he claimed to represent to recover billions of dollars in wealth.
Instead, “Attorney General” Hernandez stood on the side of foreign energy companies responsible for cheating his country out of billions of dollars.
Hernandez’s conduct appears to have violated the US Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys. Rule 1.7 stipulates that “a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest” including if “the representation of one client” (in this case, the oil company conspirators) “will be directly adverse to another client” (in this case, PdVSA). Further, Rule 1.9 states that “a lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client.”
“I looked for a similar case and I didn’t find one — because it is just so obvious,” the opposition-aligned Guaidó critic Jorge Alejandro Rodríguez told The Grayzone.
“In the first place, nobody will hire an expert who worked for the other side. That is Venezuela’s fault. And if you did hire that person, then the other company would recuse him and say, ‘No! You cannot hire that guy. That guy knows my secrets!’ It’s a Catch-22 situation,” explained Rodríguez.
Venezuela’s opposition accuses Guaidó’s “Attorney General” of corrupt dealings, demands answers
During the June 3 testimony to lawmakers that was later leaked to Venezuela’s government, one member of the country’s opposition made reference to Hernandez’s work on behalf of Trafigura, one of the oil company conspirators charged in the Helsigne case.
“For some time, things have been coming up,” complained Jorge Millán of the Primero Justicia party. He added that “there is no response” from Hernandez’s office regarding pressing questions from lawmakers.
“Cases like that of Trafigura,” Millán continued, “increasing in percentage to become the principal trading partner of CITGO in the last year.”
Millán went on to reference Trafigura’s role in the Helsinge case, stating to Hernandez, “by the way, I don’t know Mr. Attorney General, I believe that you were an expert witness in that case.”
“Therefore, there are things that we (lawmakers) have been asking about, and we have not received any documentation up until this very day.”
Millán had reason to be concerned about Hernandez’s relationship with Trafigura. After all, it was one of the oil companies which defrauded PDVSA out of billions of dollars for over a decade.
While it was impossible for this reporter to independently verify the claim that Trafigura had replaced PDVSA as the top trading partner of CITGO, it is reasonable to assume that Millan made the assertion based on internal data he had access to as part of the National Assembly’s Energy Commission.
If his allegation was true, it meant that Trafigura benefited from sanctions restricting Venezuela’s ability to export crude to CITGO refineries based in the United States — after having placed Hernandez on its payroll.
CITGO formally severed ties with its parent company, PDVSA, in February of 2019 following the Trump administration’s recognition of Juan Guaidó and the introduction of harsh sanctions which banned US entities from purchasing Venezuelan oil.
Millán’s questioning signaled a growing frustration with the unethical conduct of Guaidó officials among even ferociously anti-Chavista ranks of Venezuela’s opposition. It was in this context that audio of the hearing was ultimately leaked to Venezuela’s government, prompting Hernandez’s resignation.
PDVSA’s Guaidó-appointed president deflects questions about corruption
On May 22, 2020, lawyers representing the PDVSA Litigation Trust petitioned an appeals court in Atlanta to reinstate their case against the oil company conspirators, banks, and individuals responsible for the multi-billion dollar fraud perpetrated against PDVSA.
David Boies, a prominent attorney from the New York-based law firm, Boies Schiller & Flexner, argued on behalf of PDVSA.
According to CourtHouse News, Boies “told a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court that the creation of the trust was necessary because ‘everybody was concerned that the people who were engaged in the corruption would use their political influence to try to get one faction or another to kill this litigation.’”
So far, the case has yet to proceed.
Regardless of what a district court thinks of the trust’s legitimacy, an important question lingers: why have Guaidó’s PDVSA board or his US-based officials not tried to initiate their own lawsuit against the conspirators based on the evidence submitted to the Florida court?
This reporter took these questions to Luis Pacheco, the Guaidó-appointed President of PDVSA’s Ad-hoc Administrative Board.
Mr. Pacheco, in doing research I stumbled across PdVSA's case against Lukoil et al and I am wondering why you have not tried to nudge it along since taking over as Guaidó's adhoc PdVSA President? Your company was defrauded out of billions of $. Seems like a big deal!
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) June 19, 2020
Shockingly, Pacheco responded by claiming to be unaware of the multi-billion dollar fraud, saying his team was “short on resources” and therefore focusing on “cases that endanger assets.” He went on to ask this reporter to “be so kind as to” bring him up to date on the case.
It was hard to believe that Pacheco, who is supposed to be in charge of PDVSA, was unaware of the multi-billion dollar Helsinge fraud. But this reporter obliged his request and sent him the entire Florida court docket.
“I am happy to report that our lawyers have been busy navigating this case,” Pacheco said after apparently reviewing the files. He added, “there are still complexities associated with the legality of the litigation trust and the legitimacy of Maduro’s representatives in the case.”
“You are right in pointing out that it is an important case since it highlights the rampant corruption of PDVSA under Chavez and Maduro and I thank you for interest in exposing those facts,” Pacheco continued.
It was difficult to take Pacheco’s comments at face value considering the “lawyers” he referred to would have necessarily included Jose Ignacio Hernandez — someone who clearly had the interests of the oil companies listed as defendants in the case, rather than PDVSA’s interests, at heart.
“I hope Mr. Pacheco did not bring this [case] for consultation to Mr. Hernàndez, as it would be a testimonial of a total lack of judgement and common sense,” Rodríguez told The Grayzone. “If he did so it would be enough of a reason for his removal. And if Hernandez provided advice to Mr. Pacheco on this case an investigation should be brought forward by both U.S. and Venezuelan authorities.”
Why won’t the US Department of Justice investigate a clear-cut case of corruption?
At the time of the legal complaint’s submission to the court in March of 2018, lawyers representing the PDVSA Litigation Trust alleged the crime detailed in its contents was “ongoing and the conspirators continue to use the same Panamanian Companies and banks to launder the payments to the bribed PDVSA agents and officials.”
At the time of this article’s publication, Helsinge Inc’s website is still active, though it remains unclear where Morillo and Baquero are based.
It was also impossible for this reporter to track down the PDVSA employees implicated in the lawsuit or confirm if the clone server set up by Helsinge’s collaborators within PDVSA’s office is still operational.
Attorneys representing the PDVSA Litigation Trust, including David Boies, did not respond to this reporter’s requests for comment.
Yet for opposition critics of Guaidó like Rodríguez, Hernandez’s resignation from the US-backed shadow administration is insufficient. He would like to see US authorities investigate the lawyer for his breach of ethics.
“Mr. Hernandez has failed to provide the National Assembly in Venezuela with his Crystallex contract, which clearly he was supposed to, and Venezuelans have no idea, if for instance, he has a contingency clause or something of that sort,” Rodríguez commented.
“Knowing that political instability in countries usually brings about white collar crimes — which we saw Russia and all the former communist republics — in the case of Venezuela right now with this political turmoil, it’s an obvious the DOJ has to investigate [Hernandez and Crystallex] under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Crystallex is a foreign company, a Canadian company, so they have restrictions on what they can do in the US and what they cannot. So there is a case here, I am positive about it,” Rodríguez continued.
As a bribery scandal of staggering proportions unfolds in its own courts, the US government that empowered Hernandez appears to be sweeping his dirt under the rug. Washington’s inaction raises the question of whether the corruption unfolding under its watch was simply a side effect of its regime change operation in Venezuela, or a central component of its strategy.
Anya Parampil is a journalist based in Washington, DC. She has produced and reported several documentaries, including on-the-ground reports from the Korean peninsula, Palestine, Venezuela, and Honduras.