Derwick Associates: from Power Plants to Agricultural Plants

In another hilarious chapter in the Derwick Associates saga (a company of twenty-somethings with no experience in the energy sector that received 12 power plant contracts for billions of dollars thanks to one of their school chums, who just-so-happens to be the son of the government minister assigning the contracts), the holding company they have in Spain has just changed its name. Now, the "powerful" American-sounding company that bought a €22.7 million hunting estate in Toledo and luxury apartments in Madrid, is to be called COMPAÑIA DE INVERSIONES AGRICOLAS TRIESTE SL. That is, Agricultural Investment Company of Trieste. I guess one way to diversify your "business" is by ditching a brand name that, by their own admission, is usually found alongside words like "bribery, FCPA, corruption, kickbacks".

So why would these Bolichicos dump their "brand"? In recent months we have seen their "effort" at astroturfing. In typical Derwick fashion, press releases that don't contain a grain of truth have been appearing as "news" in some pay-for-play websites. For instance, Europa Press posted an item about Alejandro Betancourt (Derwick's head honcho) meeting with some suit to look into "investment opportunities" in Spain. Since Derwick no longer exists as Derwick in Spain, will it invest as COMPAÑIA DE INVERSIONES AGRICOLAS TRIESTE SL? That would, surely, be a shrewd move, wouldn't it? Dropping the only name, however discredited, a company is known for and entering the energy sector of a different country with an agricultural vehicle... The Derwick boys are cash rich. No doubt about that. This is all speculation of course, given that they refuse to reveal how much they got from the Chavez regime, but if expert estimations are anything to go by these kids could be sitting on more than $2 billion. With that kind of money they may as well purchase a province in Spain, with everything inside included. But I'm digressing. Just why would Derwick change its name in Spain? Was it to avoid paying taxes related to transfer of ownership of assets? Would it be to prevent that their assets are seized due to pending lawsuits? Or could it be because their reputation is damaged beyond repair?

Let's go back to their "PR effort". Recently they hired some new "PR" people. It's all paid bullshit of course, replicated a thousand times by RaFa's army of Twitter bots. No serious website, unless those controlled by Derwick's very own spindoctors or others duped by the likes of Hilary Kramer, touches the Bolichicos' "clarifications". But then one comes across sites that aren't in the radar, like Chile-based Estrategia.cl that has posted a few items on Derwick, and then, Oh My God!!!

WHOIS will tell you that Estrategia.cl belongs to VICTOR MANUEL OJEDA MENDEZ (pictured). Go ahead, and Google that name. Seriously. Derwick, or their "PR people", must have thought they'd hit the jackpot by finding an outlet in Chile willing to publish their PR crap. It just so happens that the owner of that "PR" platform happens to be a thug, found to have manipulated Chile's stock market back in 2004 (by publishing false information in Estrategia) about a company called Schwager. Ojeda had participation in Schwager through another vehicle, and thanks to the artificially-inflated stock price he managed to make about 183 million pesos in a matter of days. Authorities got wind of Ojeda's move and launched an investigation into the affair, which ended up with a fine that's been creeping up since and it stands at 345 million pesos (~$646,000). If you have the time, do read this extraordinary piece of investigative journalism into Ojeda's business practices. Well, how about that? Derwick's PR platform in Chile is owned by a "businessman" just like them. Will that association help clean their image? We have a saying for this sort of thing in Spanish: "Dios los hace y ellos se juntan."

Then, there's those persistent blackouts in Venezuela. Derwick's PR will have you believe that "they have installed 1.386 MW" in Venezuela. They will also brag about the effect of their power plants, which "armored Caracas against blackouts" and when these occur "power is reestablished in 30 to 50 minutes". Trouble is, none of these Derwick kids know what they're talking about, and those who do know, for instance energy expert Jose Aguilar, have a different take.

For the non-Spanish speakers: Aguilar argues that "armoring Caracas" had a cost of $1.134 million for 728 MW. Only 43% of those (316 MW) are available. Caracas required 2.200 MW to solve the blackout. So how could have Derwick's plants "solve" the problem? Another case of facts standing in the way of unsubstantiated PR claims...

Readers will remember that Derwick's execs Alejandro Betancourt, Pedro Trebbau and Francisco D'Agostino were sued by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs for racketeering and bribing chavistas. While the case is still to be heard in court, Derwick has decided to ditch Hector Torres, the incompetent New York lawyer that was threatening all and sundry on their behalf. Now each of the defendants have different legal counsel (Lankler Siffert & Wohl for Betancourt, Tew Cardenas for Trebbau and Susman Godfrey for D'Agostino). The Bolichicos basically argue lack of jurisdiction and are asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed. It will be extremely interesting to see how this case plays out. I, for one, look forward to it. Bribes are the core of this issue. Did Rafael Ramirez et al accept their due only in Bolivares, paid into Venezuelan bank accounts, or rather in USD, transferred to offshore accounts via JP Morgan? How can the Bolichicos claim lack of jurisdiction when Missouri-based ProEnergy Services did actually build the plants? Did ProEnergy also get their payments in Bolivares, in Venezuela? In sum, given that contracts were obtained through corruption and nepotism, and that Derwick was given millions of dollars by Venezuelan institutions to meet their obligations, can anyone believe that they never used the U.S. currency, stream of commerce and financial system in the course of their activities? There's still a lot to be written about this saga, but that argument of lack of jurisdiction is as credible as the rest of their PR.