Message to INFODIO readers: investigative journalism, which is what this site does, takes lots of time. Visiting media looking for a quick run down on Venezuela's gargantuan corruption, have the decency to at least cite the source when plagiarising this site's content without attribution (exhibit Reuters here and here, exhibit Bloomberg here, exhibit OCCRP here). To all readers, do the right thing, the honest thing: support independent investigative journalism, help us expose rampant corruption. Note added 28/06/2021: impostors are using INFODIO's former editor's full name, and a fake email address (alek.boyd.arregui at to send copyright infringement claims / take down requests to web hosting companies (exhibit Hostgator). The attempt is yet another effort paid by corrupt thugs to erase information about their criminal activities. has no issues with other websites / journalists using / posting information published here, so long as the source is properly cited.

A case study on plagiarism by Pulitzer winner

Features of modern life always get late to Venezuela. Investigative journalism was one of them. When we started learning the ropes and posting breaking stories about Venezuelan rampant corruption, in the early 2000s, nobody was publishing investigative journalism work in English online. Our first series, about propaganda outfit Venezuela Information Office, exposed Andres Izarra, Eva Golinger, Greg Wilpert, Mark Weisbrot, Code Pink, TransAfrica Forum, Michael Schellenberger and a whole bunch of psycophantic paid agents. It generated much attention back in the day, so much so that chavismo shut it down and ops and budget were transferred to Weisbrot's CEPR.

In Venezuela, nobody knew how to file FOIA requests, and dig for information held in official databases. Language was, and continues to be, a huge barrier. Those who do not speak, write and have a good command of the English language simply could not trace international movements of chavismo and the boliburgeoisie. We kept at it, fascinated by the ease with which Venezuela's corrupt were able to transition from original jurisdiction to others, and how the service industry in developed nations surrendered to the spilling flow of petrodollars.

Hugo Chavez greatest weapon, we've always said it, wasn't charisma, popularity, or electoral victories, no: it was his unrestricted use of Venezuela's public funds, which he spent as he saw fit to advance his project. Being the maximum leader of a petrostate in the middle of an oil boom was what "gained" Chavez sympathies the world over. In those heady days of plenty, no international media questioned Chavez much, and those of us who did were perceived as a band of stooges controlled by the big bad American wolf.

We still kept at it, publishing more and more investigations, the sort that would cause heads to roll and monumental scandals in any civilised society. By the time Chavez died in 2013, the seed of doubt about his revolution was germinating in much of the Western world. His handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, was neither rich nor charismatic, more of an insufferable thug unable to do much beyond consolidating the criminal enterprise known as Venezuela's government.

But Chavez had done the groundwork. The criminal gangs that were established during his reign only grew bigger, bolder, ever more controlling of vast swathes of the "economy". Derwick Associates, for instance, started off thanks to a presidential decree from Chavez, that declared a national emergency in power generation so billions of dollars worth of procurement contracts would be given without bidding to handpicked and close friends. That's how the first billion was "made" by Alejandro Betancourt, Francisco Convit and co.

But then, there's only so many power plants that can be sold in a banana republic. So the Derwick thugs transitioned to oil, and to money laundering masked as foreign exchange mechanisms to help PDVSA's operations. The oil deal was done in association with Russian FSB operatives; the money laundering with Swiss banks / bankers and Venezuelan "financial whiz kids". Derwick then moved to politics, and basically got control over Juan Guaido and his master Leopoldo Lopez.

Another interesting case was that of Alex Saab, a Colombian thug with difficult-to-explain and very close associations with convicted drug cartel members. Saab sort of waltzed into Venezuela by the hand of Colombia's narcosenator Piedad Cordoba, who introduced him to Chavez and Maduro. Saab must have struck some extraordinary chord, for the intros launched him into a "business career" that would put many in Wall Street to shame. Initially, it was the scam with a regional currency system called SUCRE, whereby import / export companies in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia could settle receivables in that currency, whose local equivalent was then disboursed by Central Banks to recipients. Ecuador's dollarised economy was a big hit, and that's how Saab-controlled shells started getting hundreds of millions of dollars, which he would then flip in Venezuela's thriving black market generating huge profits thanks to arbitrage.

Saab then became a builder, as in the sort that would build 25,000 units of social housing. He would build stadiums. Gymnasiums. Hundreds of millions worth of contracts were handed to him, without bid, in a bilateral meeting attended by Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, Juan Manuel Santos and Maria Angela Holguin. Neither of the two administrations thought proper to make some cursory due diligence. Like in Derwick's case, that was far from the end. Saab then became the largest importer and provider of government-subsidised food. Again, hundreds of millions granted without oversight. All the while, he was trying to enter the energy trading space. Eventually Saab got started in mining, producing and smuggling gold to help Maduro circumvent U.S. sanctions. Ultimately, like any self respecting "businessman" in Venezuela, Saab entered proper the energy sector, becoming PDVSA's largest trader upon Rosneft's exit.

This site broke most of these stories, meticulously documenting and exposing for the first time, the myriad connections, networks, companies and individuals involved in different jurisdictions. The fact that nearly all of it was published in English was a conscious and calculated decision, taken early on. This site's goal was never to become the most popular site in Venezuela, but to be the one source that law enforcement could check for criminal activities and grand theft that the likes of Derwick and Saab have done. In that, our track record is unparalleled. Information first published here forms the basis of ongoing criminal probes against Derwick. When it comes to Saab, our seminal exposé published in October 2013 underpined subsequent Department of Justice's criminal charges against him and his partner Alvaro Pulido Vargas.

Given that our ethos is to expose corruption, we are concerned by the widespread plagiarism that characterises the new generation of Venezuelan investigative journalists. There was a time when we were held in high esteem, and were asked to share our experiences, invited to train and impart our knowledge to budding investigative journalists wanting to make their mark. We kept fluid and cordial communications, discussed topics of investigations, shared documents and information.

But then something happened. Stories published here in English started appearing in Venezuelan sites, in Spanish, as "breaking news". Derwick's diversification and Saab's activities were claimed as "exclusives". The case of is particularly egregious. It lifted, without attribution, stories about Saab, about media acquisitions, about Derwick's ventures into oil and money laundering in Switzerland, about Venezuelan bankers and their bankruptcies, about PDVSA's procurement...

When the scandal of the Panama Papers broke, was lumped with recipients of a 2017 Pulitzer award for "explanatory reporting". When it comes to exposing Venezuelan corruption, very few can match what we've done. In all these years, not once have we plagiarised work of others in this very narrow field of study. We do not fail to cite sources and make proper attribution where needed.

It is troubling therefore, apart from completely corrupt, that recipients of such prestigious journalistic awards are unethical to the point of being incapable of citing sources appropriately. Plagiarism, as every person that has done university studies would know, is not accepted in academic and literary circles. It is not only frowned upon, but it has claimed some rather scintillating careers, like that of golden boy and serial plagiarist Johan Hari.

Sites big and small and so called professional journalists have plagiarised this site's content over the years, and  we've noticed a trend: whenever we find out and complain the shared reaction, for the most part, is to ignore, to pretend it never happened, or worse, to even fail to reply formal communications, like Bloomberg's Laura Zelenko. Reuters and Argus have also been completely dishonest when presented with clear examples of plagiarism, based on information solidly supported by the chronological record.

If that is the case with media that is meant to have developed policies to deal with plagiarism, what is the hope for a three-man Venezuelan outfit answerable to no one, like These days they're on an extended victory lap, claiming at every opportunity that their CLAP series on Alex Saab led to his arrest. As if CLAP is the only corrupt thing Saab has done. They did the same thing when DoJ charged Saab, however clear the indictment was about corruption in procurement of housing units. They haven't said a word however, about Saab's latest role as PDVSA largest trader and his connections to Mexican shells doing "humanitarian" deals with Maduro.

Revista Semana - Alek BoydThe record shows a different story. Our exposé of Saab predates's work by, at least, two years. In fact, a Youtube video we uploaded as part of our first post on Saab in late October 2013 was used by's boss in 2016, in relation to another story about Saab (Trenaco) we broke six months before Reuters. Our reporting on Saab was the topic of radio interviews and further articles published in Colombian media. Moreover, Saab's lawyer Abelardo de la Espriella managed to get Revista Semana to remove an investigative piece we co-authored with Colombia's former tax chief in late October 2013. It may have helped that Revista Semana's editor in chief was a nephew of former President Juan Manuel Santos, who failed miserably at investigating Saab and keeping him at bay despite his connections to criminal actors on both sides of the border.

However,'s Saab's über expert (Roberto Deniz) is at pains to recognise these simple facts. In June 2014, we briefed federal agencies probing Saab. It is highly unlikely that any person associated with would have been in a position to do so back then, yet they keep claiming that as far as Venezuela's investigative journalism context is concerned it's their work what matters, regardless of how much it derives from others. This wanton disregard for accuracy, attribution, and body of published work speaks volumes about Venezuela's media landscape, a reflection no doubt of its morally deprived society.

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