by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
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Venezuelan oil company executive

Jesús Villanueva

Mossack Fonseca worried about owner's access to public funds

Related to  Venezuela
Data from: Panama Papers
Jesus Villanueva rose quickly within Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA), the state oil company, after Hugo Chavez's election as president in 1998. Villanueva served as general auditor, then as a director in 2002, later returning to auditor and then becoming a director again in 2005. A 2006 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission noted that since he was Audit Committee vice president and also the Audit Committee Financial Expert, Villanueva was not "independent" as defined by the New York Stock Exchange. He left the board in 2008, when Chavez replaced six directors but continued as auditor. Villanueva exposed in a 2009 PdVSA confidential memo costly problems with a nationwide food supply network created by Chavez and PdVSA; an audit revealed that only 25 percent of the more than $2.2 million in food imports ordered by mid-2008 had reached Venezuela within six months after payment. PdVSA is currently the focus of a large U.S. investigation into graft, money laundering and other corruption.

In the data

In March 2009, Mossack Fonseca Luxembourg helped to incorporate Blue Sea Enterprises Corp. in Panama. The main purpose of the company was handling offshore savings accumulated by Villanueva, which were deposited in Swiss EFG Bank. Mossack Fonseca's Luxembourg issued a power of attorney to Villanueva, giving him the right to authorize transactions. However, internal emails showed that the founders of the Panamanian law firm revoked his authority because of “a high risk on doing business with this person” as he had “direct access to the public treasury, and the origin of his funds” could be “questioned at any given moment," so the probabilities of a scandal” were “higher.” They referred to him as “a total PEP” or politically exposed person. However, one of the company's partners, Chris Zollinger, favored continuing the business relationship with Villanueva. In January 2010, Mossack Fonseca skirted the PEP problem by granting power of attorney of Blue Sea to his daughter Anny Josefina Villanueva.

Response

Villanueva's daughter told ICIJ's Venezuelan partner that she has a Panamanian company with "Blue" in the name. She declined to discuss any details or to say where her father is.
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