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Venezuela's finance minister Rodolfo Marco Torres was president of the bank that deposited $11.9 billion into Swiss bank accounts during the Chavez administration. (Photo: Minci)
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Trade Talk

Poor Venezuela, Rich Venezuela: The Swiss Bank Accounts


Venezuela’s finance minister oversaw bank that deposited $11.9 billion.

BY LATINVEX STAFF

While Venezuela suffers from its worst economic crisis ever – with massive shortages of food, toilet paper, toothpaste and medicine – new data shows that Venezuelan officials deposited a whopping $11.9 billion in Swiss bank accounts.

The data was provided by Herve Falciani, an ex-HSBC employee who is wanted in Switzerland on charges of data theft, and revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) through their project Swiss Leaks.

According to the data, Venezuelans had 1,138 accounts totaling $14.8 billion at the Swiss branch of UK-based HSBC between 2005 and 2007. However, a whopping $11.9 billion of that was tied to one account holder, Alejandro Andrade, a former bodyguard of Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez.

“Alejandro Andrade was listed by the HSBC records as an attorney for the client account of the Venezuelan Treasury Office under the Ministry of Finance in 2007, when he assumed the position of national treasurer,” ICIJ says. “The Treasury Office became an HSBC client in 2005 and held an account under the name of the governmental institution…At least six of the other seven clients linked to this account were also Venezuelan officials who worked for the Treasury Office.”

The Treasury Office (formally known as Banco del Tesoro de Venezuela) was only two months old when it opened an account with $9.5 billion at the Swiss HSBC branch. Five months later, it deposited another $2 billion in two linked accounts, according to Armando.info, the unit that investigated the Venezuela part of the leaks.

The president of the bank at the time was army general Rodolfo Marco Torres, who is now finance minister in the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Andrade  started as a bodyguard to Chavez  but ended up serving as national treasurer between 2007 and 2010. In addition to serving as treasurer, Andrade was also president of the Economic and Social Development Bank of Venezuela (Bandes) between 2008 and 2010.

Andrade currently lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, in the wealthy neighborhood of Wellington, and has invested in show horses, according to ICIJ.

The leaked data also shows that Cuban nationals held 29 accounts at the Swiss HSBC branch, worth a combined $83.8 million. That's peanuts compared to Venezuela’s contribution, but clearly a contradiction for a Communist country that claims to be egalitarian and a contrast to the widespread shortages on the island.

Meanwhile, account holders include Paraguay’s president Horacio Cartes (two accounts between 1989 and 1991), Ecuadorian mogul Alvaro Noboa and Mexican businessmen Carlos Hank Rhon and Jaime Camil Garza.

“The Guayaquil-based tycoon  [Noboa] was a beneficial owner of an HSBC client account started in 2006, under the name Fruit Shippers Limited, which listed postal addresses in Bermuda and the United States,” ICIJ says.  “Fruit Shippers Limited is the name of a company in which Noboa is the controlling shareholder. The maximum amount in the account in 2006/2007 was $92.1 million.”

Carlos Hank Rohn became an HSBC client in 2005 and had 10 bank accounts that together held as much as $158 million in 2006/2007, according to ICIJ.

“Hank Rohn was also linked to a numbered client account with one bank account which held as much as $20.1 million in 2006/2007,” ICIJ says. “The leaked files do not specify the exact role he had in relation to this account.”

In 2013, Camil Garza was named as the consultant who allegedly paid bribes on behalf of the German company Siemens to Mexico’s national oil company Pemex. Pemex identified Camil as an intermediary in the payments in a separate 2013 lawsuit against Siemens, which was dismissed by U.S. courts. Camil rejected all allegations of wrongdoing in a conversation with ICIJ.

 

 

SWISS ACCOUNTS

Millions of US dollars

Country

Amount

Accounts

Highest

Venezuela

$14,800.00

1,138

$11,900

Brazil

$7,000

8,667

$302

Argentina

$3,500.00

3,625

$1,500

Panama

$2,800.00

1,211

$75.90

Uruguay

$2,800.00

771

$1,500

Mexico

$2,200.00

2,642

$596.40

Chile

$467.50

428

$42.60

Colombia

$276.40

286

$57.50

Ecuador

$198.40

29

$92.10

Peru

$141.20

96

$57.50

Bolivia

$93.50

26

$32.10

El Salvador

$88.20

54

$52.50

Cuba

$83.80

29

$48.50

Paraguay

$46

84

$20.80

Dom. Rep.

$34.30

23

$8

Guatemala

$31.50

63

$17.70

Haiti

$23.60

14

$10.50

Costa Rica

$23.10

28

$8.80

Honduras

N/A

5

N/A

Nicaragua

N/A

5

N/A

Source: ICIJ



NOTES: Highest=highest amount of a client from that country

ICIJ did not reveal details on Honduras and Nicaragua

 

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