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Gustavo Coronel: The Aban Pearl, the proof

 

 

Readers might remember that in April 13, 2010, the offshore drilling rig Aban Pearl sank in Venezuelan territorial waters. This rig was owned by Aban Offshore Co., a company based in India and had been rented in 2008 for a five-year period by Petroleos de Venezuela, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company. Rental was done through a Singapore based company called Petro Marine Energy Services LTD that was incorporated August 12, 2008, shortly before the contract was signed. Aban Offshore, the owner of the company declared receiving a rental fee of $358,000 a day ( see link) .

However, Petroleos de Venezuela announced in its Annual report for 2008 that the value of the contract for the five-year period amounted to $1,315, 000,000. This would indicate that the daily rental for the equipment was in the range of $730,000 per day, considerably more than received by the owner. Source: Annual Report of Petroleos de Venezuela, 2008. Link:Pages 1005 and 1006.

My search for information on this transaction led to the Singapore Registry Offices of ACRA. According to this registry the Directors of Petro Marine Energy Services LTD, named between May and June of 2008, are: Daphne Theodora Grek Yalipsos Casillas, of Mexican nationality, resident of Athens, Greece (ID document #04330017225); Krishna Kumar Nittala, a resident of Singapore, and Christof Schlaubitz, of German nationality, a resident of Caracas, Venezuela, at Residencias PARTAGAS, La Castellana, Caracas.

In 2010 I followed the trail of Petro Marine to Panama and found out that the company owning Petro Marine Energy services LTD. is registered in Panama as Inversiones Maritimas ISAPECO S.A., with a P.O. Box as address. It has a capital of U.S. $10,000 and the persons who appear as Representative, President, Secretary and Treasurer are: Eric Stanziola, Dr. Jacobo Abdiel Juliao, Antonio Sanchez and Marlene Appleton respectively. Now, July 2012, I know much more about this Panamanian company. I have obtained a duly notarized document from ISAPECO's resident agent, Eric Stanziola, stating that the owners of this company are Mr. Enoc Martinez and Mr. Hidalgo Socorro, each one holding 50 shares of the company, which represent 50 percent of the total shares, valued at $500 each.

It seems, therefore, that Petro Marine Energy Services LTD is owned by the same owner (s) of ASTIVENCA, a Maracaibo, Venezuela, based company.
ASTIVENCA and ISAPECO owner Mr. Martinez was reported to have traveled to Singapore in 2008 to witness the signature of the contract with PDVSA. In this occasion he claimed to be one of the partners for Petro Marine, which we now know to be true. Petro Marine has also incorporated a subsidiary in Caracas, in January 13, 2010, naming Mr. Hidalgo Socorro as legal representative, with a capital of some U.S. 500. Mr. Martinez and Mr. Hidalgo are partners in several companies registered in Miami, Florida (such as Astivenca, Aceros de America and The Worldwide Group).

Regarding this case Venezuelan National Assembly deputies Ismael Garcia, Juan Jose Molina and Wilmer Azuaje introduced before the Office of the Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, a legal accusation against the President of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, naming Jesus Figueroa and Krishna Nittala as co-defendants.

Jesus Figueroa was in charge of the PDVSA Division signing the contract and Krishna Nittala appears as one of the Directors of the intermediary company Petro Marine, (see above). This legal document was accompanied by Annex A, a copy of the no-bid, directly assigned contract between PDVSA and Petro Marine for the rental of the drilling barge Aban Pearl. The contract was signed for a rental period of five years at a cost to PDVSA of $1,315,000, 000. This amount represents a daily rental cost of about $730,000, practically twice as much as the amount paid to the owners of the barge. This obscene overpayment is the one I had already denounced in the Venezuelan press in 2010 and in 2011.

Therefore, five things now appear to be factual: One, that the barge was contracted by PDVSA to an intermediary company, not to its owner. This is, in the best of cases, inefficient and a potential cause of corruption. Second, that the barge was contracted to the intermediary company by an amount of money that seems to be twice as large as that paid to the owner, suggesting that a considerable amount of money remained in the pockets of this intermediary company. Three, that the intermediary company formed in Singapore and owned by a Panamanian registered company was incorporated solely for the purposes of this transaction and received the contract from PDVSA without bidding. Four, that the Panamanian company owning the Singapore intermediary company has a capital of only $10,000, totally insufficient to be responsible for a $1.3 Billion contract. Five, that the owners of the company contracting with PDVSA were established contractors of PDVSA in Venezuela.

Furthermore there is little doubt that the contractors of Petro Marine had special treatment from PDVSA. There was no bidding for this huge contract and the company was incorporated in Singapore specifically for the purpose of signing the contract for the barge Aban Pearl. A former employee of PDVSA, Mr. Fernando Palomo Cuevas, a mid-level Security Officer ( see link) called Mr. Enoc Martinez a protégé of a current PDVSA Director, Mr. Ricardo Coronado, and intimated that that he was in cahoots with members of the current PDVSA staff to share the “profits” of the Petro Marine-PDVSA rental contract. Mr. Palomo was dismissed from the company and an attempt was made against his life by person or persons unknown in the city of Carupano, eastern Venezuela.
Blogger Caracas Gringo ( see article) stated in May 21, 2010 that he had received information that former Vice-president of PDVSA, Mr. Luis Vierma, was involved in Petro Marine. While being a Director for PDVSA Mr. Vierma admitted giving no-bid drilling contracts to paper companies. ( sea article) . Currently Mr. Vierma is a Director for a company called “Iroquois Capital Opportunity Fund”, with offices in Lexington Avenue in New York City. An adviser to this company is also former PDVSA Director Aries Barreto, who seems to be a Canadian resident.

Questions to the Venezuelan authorities:

1. Why, after three years and numerous public reports of corruption, no investigation has been made of PDVSA and its contractors in this case of the Aban Pearl?

2. Why did PDVSA contract a drilling barge with an intermediary company instead of doing it directly with its owner?

3. Why was this contract assigned without bidding and for an amount that was twice as large as the amount received by the owner of the barge?

4. What are the links between the owners of Petro Marine and PDVSA's managers?

5. Why did the Attorney General disregard the formal accusation introduced by members of the National Assembly against Rafael Ramirez, President of PDVSA in connection with this contract?

We ask again the Attorney General's Office and the National Assembly to take action in what appears to be a huge crime against the nation.


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Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is Petroleumworld associate editor and advisor on the opinion and editorial content of the site. All his articles can be read in Gustavo's blog. Las Armas de Coronel . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.


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Petroleumworld News 07/10/2012

 

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