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PdV sues oil traders for conspiracy

09 Mar 2018 15:10 GMT
PdV sues oil traders for conspiracy

Caracas, 9 March (Argus) — Venezuelan state-owned PdV filed suit in US federal court accusing Lukoil, Trafigura, Colonial, Glencore, Vitol and other oil trading firms and executives of paying millions of dollars in bribes since 2004 to secure rigged oil sales and procurement contracts.

The civil lawsuit unsealed yesterday by a federal court in the southern district of Florida names almost three dozen companies, banks and individuals as active participants in an ongoing conspiracy to steal confidential PdV information, rig bids, fix prices and suppress competition.

The lawsuit was brought by PdV US Litigation trust, a company created in mid-2017 expressly to bring lawsuits related to widespread corruption involving Venezuelan oil exports and procurement contracts, the Venezuelan energy ministry said.

The chief defendant named in the lawsuit is Helsinge, a Panama-based company created in 2004 by Venezuelan nationals and former PdV traders Francisco Morillo and Leonardo Baquero with offices in Miami, Geneva and the UK island of Jersey.

The trading companies named in the lawsuit already were existing traders approved to do business with PdV in 2004. Trafigura, Lukoil, Vitol, Glencore and Colonial are still major PdV clients and suppliers.

Morillo and Baquero are alleged to have used their insider status within PdV to provide the trading firms and individual traders named in the lawsuit with inside information about PdV's future tenders "months before the marketplace received the same information from PdV," according to the 60-page document unsealed yesterday in Miami.

The scheme gives "Helsinge and the Oil Company Conspirators an illegal and grossly

disproportionate advantage because it provides them with the ability to dictate the procedure and substance of the tenders in a manner that makes it logistically impossible for a market competitor to even submit a valid competing bid," the lawsuit says.

The bribed PdV officials would delay the tender issue date to the marketplace "to compress the bid window and the time period from "best and final'' tender offers to the closing date when the buyer must take delivery of the product on its tanker and leave the loading port," putting competitors at another disadvantage.

The lawsuit names Ysmel Serrano, a current PdV board member and head of PdV's commercial and supply department since early 2017, as one of the senior company officials who was systematically bribed. Serrano's office told Argus this morning that he was not there.

An attorney and politician, Serrano is a longtime trusted associate of Venezuela's executive vice president Tareck El Aissami, one of many senior Venezuelan officials subject to targeted US sanctions.

The energy ministry and PdV declined to comment. Trafigura declined to comment on the lawsuit. Vitol did not immediately respond to a request for a response.