There has been a dramatic development in the on-going row between Venezuela and PetroSaudi over the off-shore oil contract that was funded by the 1MDB investment in the Saudi-owned company.
Late last week, the country’s top prosecutor issued criminal proceedings and applied for an international arrest warrant for the former powerful Petroleum Minister, Rafael Ramirez, for the “crimes of intentional embezzlement, money laundering and association”, specifically referring to the so-called “ghost ship” contract with PetroSaudi.
“Ramírez you have to answer to justice for this case, for the case of factor K, and the scrap ship Saturn belonging to the ghost company Petrosaudi,” The chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab is reported as having demanded.
During a press conference, the prosecutor announced that they will request an arrest warrant, as well as Interpol’s red alert, against the former oil minister, Rafael Ramírez, for the “crimes of intentional embezzlement, money laundering and association.”
Saab assured that Ramírez is involved in the case that they qualified as “the ghost ship”, making reference to the “vessel for offshore gas exploitation Petro Saudi Saturn”. He recalled that “the boat was rented in a closed contract for seven years, of which although 60% of the time it was inoperative. By the time it was stopped, a total of US$1,175,000 million 300 thousand dollars had been paid in rental costs, even though the boat did not work. The former president of PDVSA is linked to the case of the Office of Marketing Intelligence and Petroleum Policy, based in Vienna. [Translation]
According to the prosecutors the money lost through PetroSaudi was part of US$11 billion stolen from the state oil company PDVSA, of which Ramirez was also head, during his tenure. Prosecutors say this was down to corruption, however Ramirez, who has fled the country and is believed to be hiding in the United States, is putting the matter down to his political rivalry with the current President Maduro.
Venezuela has put out a request to Interpol and is believed to be waiting on their response. Meanwhile, the court filings of the US Dept of Justice made clear last year that none of the profits accrued by PetroSaudi from this unequal deal were returned to 1MDB, which had put in the original investment as part of an alleged joint venture and then series of loan arrangements to the company.
Likewise it has emerged that the two dud drill ships owned by PetroSaudi were the sole assets on which 1MDB’s alleged $2.3 billion Cayman Island investment portfolio was based, thanks to criminal over-valuations procured on behalf of the Malaysian fund by Najib’s advisor Jho Low and a ring of collaborators based at BSI Bank (now closed following investigations into the scandal in Switzerland and Singapore).
With a court battle now underway the full details of the once secretive dealings between PetroSaudi and Ramirez’s team at PDVSA are likely to be laid bare in open court, which should provide even more details for Malaysians about where all their money went.
After all, Prime Minister Najib Razak continues to maintain there was “no wrong-doing”, 1MDB still claims it cashed out from the deal with a $2.3 billion sale of its interest and PetroSaudi has claimed that documents used by Sarawak Report to expose the thefts of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB were ‘doctored’ and forged.