Alex Saab and Tareck El Aissami have reportedly reached an agreement to rescue Venezuela's refineries, an effort that is unlikely to succeed.
While Iran denies that it received Venezuelan gold and sent gasoline to the South American country, it is known that at least one cargo ship is heading to the South American country to help Nicolás Maduro with the fuel shortage. The frontman for the Chavista dictator is supposedly responsible for these agreements.
The Tehran Times website reported that the Iranian ambassador in Caracas called it a “big lie” that Venezuela had sent nine tons of gold bars to Iran. He also claimed that there are commercial flights from Iran to Venezuela “for the immediate transfer of the necessary equipment to reactivate the Paraguana Refinery Complex.”
“So far, Iranian gasoline has not entered Venezuela. The governments of the two countries have held talks on bilateral trade cooperation, but until now, Iranian fuel has not entered Venezuela,” he said.
A Reuters report published on Wednesday, May 13, revealed that an Iranian ship loaded with fuel left Iran for Venezuela. However, all signs indicate that despite the payments worth millions made by Venezuela, it will be impossible to restore the refineries in the country. Such an investment would be futile.
“They could start activity in Paraguaná and produce some gasoline, but it will fall back on them. The process includes many precision elements, especially sensitive ones, and the facilities do not have the necessary technology,” Antonio de la Cruz, executive director of the Inter-American consulting firm Trends, told the Spanish newspaper ABC.
While Maduro has not been able to revive fuel production, he has the support of foreign companies that help him commercialize Venezuelan crude oil by avoiding U.S. sanctions. The FBI is investigating several Mexican and European companies. The U.S. could impose sanctions against them in the coming days for helping Maduro.
Meanwhile, Repsol is bringing refined products to Venezuela, dangerously bypassing U.S. sanctions. So far, Spanish energy companies have been justifying the continuation of their oil extraction operations to collect the debt they hold, but their export volumes from Venezuela are greater than the debt itself, De la Cruz told ABC.
Gold in exchange for refineries
Nicolás Maduro’s frontman, Alex Saab, is allegedly responsible for the business between Venezuela and Iran that involves the payment of gold in exchange for supplies to produce gasoline. A Bloomberg report revealed that Saab traveled to Tehran with top PDVSA executives to strike a deal whereby Iran sends gasoline additives, parts, and technicians to the South American nation in exchange for gold.
As a part of this trade relationship, the Maduro regime has sent some 9 tons of gold -worth about 500 million USD- on aircraft owned by the Tehran-based carrier Mahan Air. The shipments caused a sudden drop in Venezuela’s published foreign reserves figures, leaving the country with only 6.3 billion USD in foreign exchange assets, the lowest amount in three decades.
Who’s Alex Saab, Maduro’s frontman?
Alex Nain Saab is a Colombian businessman, who, according to international investigations, is Maduro’s frontman and allegedly a key player in the criminal activities between the Venezuelan and Turkish dictatorships.
Bloomberg explains that Saab and other accomplices “have retrofitted their criminal enterprises to adapt to challenges and opportunities.” The gold-for-food system is a multinational, many-company scheme intended to obscure the flow of money and goods, according to investigators.
“The gold is shipped to Turkey and converted into cash, which pays for food. Some food is shipped from Turkey, according to people involved in arranging shipments, but much of it is sourced in Mexico. Before it is sent to Venezuela, its value is inflated, allowing those involved in the scheme to skim money from the transactions,” lawmaker Carlos Paparoni told Bloomberg.
The legislator has explained that the companies Saab has set up to fulfill the food contracts are held by trusted associates and are registered in Mexico, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and Turkey.
Likewise, Saab was identified in Armando.info’s investigations as one of the beneficiaries in the unauthorized imports of overpriced food products for the state program of the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP).
This system, created by the regime, supplies certain basic food products to households, at a subsidized cost through preferential foreign exchange rates for the purchase and import of food products abroad.
Alex Saab managed to sell food to Venezuela for more than 200 million USD in a negotiation approved by Maduro. The products were paid for with preferential dollars but invoiced at a premium.
Maduro’s frontman was also responsible for the agreement between Venezuela and Turkey, which resulted in an exchange of Venezuelan gold for food.