How an Argentine businessman was key in the major embezzled PDVSA

Since 2015, businessman Luis Fernando Vuteff García has connected with one of the largest clans that plundered the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela. The Argentine Prosecutor’s Office keeps a file against him for tax crimes, which is added to the case that is followed in Spain for the same crime. That country granted him provisional liberty after arresting him in 2018

The role of the Argentine businessman Luis Fernando Vuteff García as the protagonist in one of the largest corruption networks that shook the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) illustrates how, despite the speeches, a certain sector of the political class that adversely affects the Chavismo, connected with regime leaders in opaque and lucrative businesses that prosecutors in various countries are now trying to unravel.

The Argentine judicial authorities, through the National Economic Criminal Investigation Courts, opened a file in 2019 to Vuteff in a case that has not been previously announced, related to tax collection, undeclared earnings and fraud, for which which requested the collaboration of the Spanish justice last year, reveal documents of the case to which ITEMP has had access.

Within the framework of this file, the Spanish National Court received a rogatory commission from their Argentine peers in April 2020 in which they were asked for different reports on the businessman that could facilitate the investigations in the South American country, agreed by the Central Court of Instruction Number 3 of Madrid to send copies “in DVD format” of the file and history of Vuteff until June 29, 2020.

Spain ended up providing Argentine prosecutors with documents on Vuteff’s personal situation and documentation related to the precautionary measures imposed.

The businessman remains in Spain under “provisional freedom”, under investigation, and was not exonerated of charges as his family said in a statement in December 2018.

More like a squire than a wise business magician, the friendship that Vuteff wove for years with the Swiss banker Ralph Steinmann in Buenos Aires, served as a bridge to interact with the world of large capitals and investors until they collided, at the end of the tunnel, with a flaming Venezuelan kleptocracy eager to launder its fortune wherever possible.

For capital managers, the temptation to raise Venezuelan money has been enormous in recent years. The same were the risks as the patrimony looted from Venezuela ran through the US financial torrent, triggering the alarms of the Department of Justice that, since 2011, investigates dozens of fraudsters and operatives of the Chavista regime.

Vuteff García, son-in-law of the former Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma, is in the crosshairs of a judicial process in Spain –with its epicenter in the United States-, for which he has yet to explain his links with a money laundering scheme from the coffers of PDVSA, which reached 1,200 million dollars, and is related to the controversial former Vice Minister of Energy of Venezuela with Hugo Chávez, Nervis Villalobos.

At almost 50 years of age, what helps to understand the role of Vuteff García is that he had a close relationship with Villalobos, a fleeting figure of the Chavista bureaucracy who gained a screen when the electricity crisis left Venezuela in the dark and Chávez recruits him to tackle the situation.

But it is Ralph Steinmann, whom Vuteff meets after passing through the Argentine university in the late 1990s, who draws the bridge with another star character in the future embezzlement of PDVSA, the Venezuelan José Vicente Amparan Croquer, against whom The United States issued an arrest warrant in 2018 for considering him a “professional money launderer”.

In October 2018, the judicial crusade against Vuteff and five other people in Spain began who were arrested for the crime of money laundering due to the profits that would have occurred as a result of a series of acts of corruption committed in Venezuela through PDVSA .

This procedure was in charge of the 41st Investigating Court of Madrid, which follows some of the largest corruption cases within Spain.

For months Vuteff was receiving large sums of money in his personal account with an explanation about the origin of those funds that the Spanish prosecutors questioned, according to court documents seen by ITEMP.

Much less did they understand the arguments by which Steinmann and Vuteff served as collaborators of a clan that used several of its investment companies in Madrid to facilitate the millionaire theft against PDVSA for 1,200 million dollars that the Department of Justice baptized as “Operation Money Flight ”and revealed on July 24, 2018.

Without referring to them by name, US prosecutors described Steinmann and Vuteff as “third-party money launderers,” or “Conspirator 5” and “Conspirator 6,” respectively, because of the role they played in the criminal plot by supporting schemes. of laundering of false investments to the authors of that millionaire embezzlement, according to the accounts of two sources familiar with the investigations in Miami.

The Justice Department did not press charges against the two businessmen, according to case documentation. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office declined to comment on “ongoing investigations.”