Venezuela has few billionaires but thousands of "pantalleros" who want to behave, if only for one evening, like a member of the monied class. This guide is not for those people. This guide is for those who have a shot at earning (looting more likely) $100M+ in liquid form. The advice below is the product of many years of experience observing the most devious and brightest of Venezuela's rich--who behave like global billionaires, or Boligarchs, as the new class that's emerged since Hugo Chavez launched his “Bolivarian revolution” is called.
1. If you cannot earn your money honestly then pay bribes to government officials to secure highly inflated government contracts.
Sectors such as oil, energy and infrastructure are recommended due to their lack of transparency. Finance is the other no-brainer field but it's hard to get into the sector given the tight-knit and mobster-like nature of Venezuelan bankers. In the 1970s and 1980s it took skill to cook-up a deal. In the 1990s it wasn't necessary "guisar," all that was needed was ownership of a bank (where you could steal depositor money and then, after FOGADE replenished your coffers, you could steal that, too!). Chavismo has democratized the art of looting the government. Now everyone--young, old, rich, poor, brown, white, dumb, smart, Universidad Santa Maria or UCAB, Venezuelan or foreigner, can play the game. But the first step is: get into the game!
2. Once you have secured your first 100 million dollars, call your high school friends working at top Wall Street banks and open accounts.
If you're money is from a questionable source begin the laundering process before you offshore your cash into Switzerland at a place like CBH. If you can't swing a Swiss bank account, settle for Panama or Grand Cayman. There are also fake "swiss" investment managers in New York happy to take your money. You don't want anyone to steal what you've stolen--so hide it. Fast.
3. Buy yourself a jet.
Forget leasing a Netjets or Marquis jet. That's for losers. Your jet has to have your own initials on the tag, like DA (Derwick Associates) or VS (Vargas Santaella) or CK (Carlos Kauffmann). Your jet is a sign of having arrived. Of being "private plane rich." Ideally a Gulfstream or a Challenger or a Citation. Something you can take on a long haul flight. If you have a devilish sense of humor get one "rojo rojito" like the one pictured, belonging to Alejandro Andrade. And whenever you want to move up to the next level of excess: buy a helicopter so you can go from the plane to your house.
4. After you've built yourself a mansion in Caracas, buy overpriced properties in Miami, New York and Spain.
Without these assets nobody will take you too seriously. Gold taps for your bathroom is a step-up from the 24K gold-plated ipads. The mansion pictured was bought for almost $70M with Venezuelan money.
5. Buy thoroughbred horses and get into the equine thing.
Big time. You can spend your time playing polo or even start your own team. Your wife can start show-jumping or doing dressage. Take your horses to competitions in Europe once or twice a year to communicate solvency. If you can't get into a competition become an FTI Consulting client and suggest they "sponsor" the competition that your kid will be competing in. You can even have them paint the Venezuelan flag right next to the Star Spangled Banner (like in this picture, featuring the spawn of looter-in-chief Alejandro Andrade, in Wellington, Florida).
6. You or your wife or mistress need to have a very active Facebook and Instagram account.
Make sure you publish some photos of your trips to Africa, your yachting adventures, and your consumption. Photographing bottles of champagne, jewellery, weddings, horses, the inside of private jets--anything that screams "we have money!" But be careful, you don’t want people to start wondering how you made so much money so fast. If a crisis arises, close all of your Instagram and Facebook accounts from one day to the next. Whatever you do make sure not to "friend" Alek Boyd and give him public access to your photo albums. Pictured here, Luis Alfonso de Borbon and Francisco D'Agostino, directors of the Banco Occidental de Venezuela, which has been often referred to as "Chavez's bankers."
7. Start a pro-democracy or charitable NGO.
By this point you are in the big leagues. You have a place at the table. Make sure everyone thinks you are philanthropist who cares about the poor. Hire PR companies and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars announcing a $10,000 donation to some poor neighborhood where you will establish a playground.
8. The wedding ceremony is important.
Be sure the family weddings don't happen in Caracas: alternatives are Miami, Madrid, Venice, or La Romana. A "destination wedding" is something Americans do. What you will be doing is something much much bigger, a five-day wedding with a few hundred of your "closest" friends in some faraway place. Try and get the wedding planner to be a socialite and get yourself featured in Hello. If you are aiming for mega-billionaire territory marry someone with a title. It doesn't matter if they aren't actually on a throne (Boligarchs wouldn't know about that), as long as they pretend to be that is all that matters.
9. You know you are making serious inroads into billionaire territory when you hire some top Republican and Democrat lobbyist in Washington DC to make sure that journalists do not look too much into your background, and don't question your social connections.
You want legitimacy by association. In the 1980s the person of choice for the Venezuelan billionaire was Henry Kissinger. It would only cost $15,000 per month but imagine having Kissinger or Vernon Jordan as your pet. If you want cheaper, go for someone like Al Cardenas. Ideally your American handlers should be former top officials, Ambassadors, think-tank leaders, and "respectable" members of the establishment.
10. Don't forget to hire a reputation management firm to "clean" your online persona.
Scrub any and all references to your brazen grand theft or your ties to the underworld. Ideally, hire a convicted felon to do this for you--he will be more prone to engage in other extra curricular activities such as hacking the email accounts of your critics, creating fake accusations of pedophilia against all of those who call you a crook, and taking over the Facebook and Twitter feeds of those who don't invite you to their weddings. Ideally do the reputation management thing before you start getting into Hello magazine. But be sure not to make it so obvious as to have it all blow up in your face.
11. If possible, pay journalists to write positive things about you and your progress and social conscience (Primicias24, El Nacional, El Concreto, Capsula Informativa).
If you begin getting bad press hire top New York lawyers to threaten any journalist who dares to expose you--even if they are simply repeating published accusations based on empirical evidence in major newspapers. In the 1980s those criticized by Resumen magazine would buy the entire print run, then they just bought the entire magazine. With the internet this makes it tough. Re-read Step 10 and pursue an aggressive legal strategy. It is essential to encourage your lawyers to take advantage of your deep pockets--tell them they can never go far enough in protecting your reputation. Remember: it is a hallmark of the Venezuelan Boligarch never to think of the long term (or of other people). Always think for the short term. Your motto: Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.
12. Most important of all: Never forget about Venezuela, your home country.
Be generous with your government friends and also with the opposition. Give all of them some money. Venezuela's most successful Boligarchs simultaneously do business with the government and own key parts of the opposition. If you misbehave, one day, the American feds might catch you and you’ll need a place to hide. And if your reputation in Venezuela is ruined--just wait it out. Eventually people will forget that you (and your family) are a dodgy enterprise operating as a "business." In time, once you have stopped the contracting and the exchange rate scams--whether it was RECADI or CADIVI; once you have stopped bilking banks--whether it was Banorte or Banco Latino--you will never, ever, go to jail. You will never, ever, have to return the money. You will simply have to be patient and be nice to people and eventually you will be accepted. Venezuela's high society will pretend to reject you but, in the end, they will go to the wedding of your children at the Country Club, they will kiss your ring, and you can go to bed at night knowing that in only one generation your daughter (or son) can become CEO of the family business and all will be well and accepted and in the past.
And whatever you do: don't read sites like this one. It will make you sad that there are "resentidos" like me criticizing your hard work and business acumen. Drown your sorrows in vintage champagne as you sit back in your super jet and remember: you are a Venezuelan Boligarch. Nunca te va a pasar nada. Eso solo le pasa a los demas.