By Alek Boyd
Life seems to be getting more and more difficult for Derwick Associates. A Venezuelan news site reported two days ago that Thor Halvorssen (with whom I worked in The Human Rights Foundation back in 2008-2009) has filed a lawsuit in Miami against Derwick Associates, and its executives Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, Pedro Trebbau Lopez and Francisco D’Agostino. To be frank, I didn’t see this one coming. As far as I know, Thor is a human rights defender. So the first thing I asked myself was: “why would Thor sue Derwick?” I sent him an email, asking for comment, and this is what he replied:
“Alek, the lawsuit can be obtained from the courthouse. My attorneys and others working with them have conducted a thorough investigation into every allegation. We are looking forward to proving our case at trial, and requiring the defendants to provide documents and answers to questions under oath before and during the trial. That is the extent of our response for the time being. I hope you understand.”
That’s a bit cryptic, isn’t it? But this being an issue between Venezuelans, where no one can keep a secret, I finally managed to get a copy of the lawsuit. Thor is basically suing for libel. He argues that letters by Derwick Associates’ lawyers sent to Forbes and to Huffington Post damaged his reputation, which brought his working relationship with those publications to an end.
To me, having written quite a lot about Derwick, the really interesting, and new, bits aren’t whether Derwick damaged Thor’s reputation (given how utterly discredited they are I very much doubt anyone would take them seriously), but rather cited allegations from “one or more former Derwick employees” claiming that Derwick gave a $50 million kickback to Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s Congress. The bribe “was made to an offshore corporation registered in Panama with accounts at Banesco.” Now that, that is huge. Cabello taking bribes from Derwick Associates? Through Juan Carlos Escotet’s Banesco? So that “Venezuelan authorities would ignore overbilling” by Derwick?
Thor claims that Derwick has “engaged in black market currency exchange” and has paid “hush money” to CICPC (Venezuela’s investigation police) “after they uncovered involvement in a multi-million dollar illegal currency exchange transaction.”
And it gets better, J.P. Morgan stands accused of money laundering, via Derwick Associates old friend and personal banker, Eduardo Travieso, who used J.P. Morgan for questionable bond transactions geared at laundering proceeds, which were then wired to “Derwick Associates’ accounts at Davos Financial Group” (make that yet another headache for Bolivarian ‘banker’ David Osio).
We also learn that Francisco D’Agostino acts as a de facto partner of Derwick Associates; that Eloy Montenegro (father in law of Pedro Trebbau) bragged about connections to the chavista regime to a level that he knew (before the order was issued) that Venezuela’s Banking regulator (Sudeban) would stop dividends to be paid to Banco Venezolano de Credito shareholders because of previous frivolous lawsuit by Derwick against that bank; and that convicted criminal, RaFa the hacker, partly owns chavista rag Primicias24.com.
Thor’s case against Derwick means that there are now two pending legal cases against them: his, and that of Otto Reich in New York. If I learned something in my time working with Thor, is that he will not risk the standing of his public persona by making spurious allegations that he can’t back up. So I predict very rough times ahead for the bolichicos.Alek Boyd is the chief investigative reporter and founder of muckraking website Infodio.com. Boyd has been so successful at uncovering corruption in Venezuela that the Venezuelan government has blocked access to Infodio.com in Venezuela. Boyd has been writing about Venezuela since October of 2002 when he created Infodio's predecessor Vcrisis.com and soon after became a columnist for The Daily Journal, the predecessor to the Latin American Herald Tribune. He has worked as an independent researcher, reporter, lobbyist, civil and political rights activist, and has experience in strategic and political consulting throughout Latin America. He has an MA in Spanish American Studies from King's College in London, with a focus on Venezuelan literature.
Thor Halvorssen v Derwick Associates