FBI looking at Derwick Associates

London 09.12.2012 – Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela’s most-read newspaper let’s not forget, published today another article about Derwick Associates by Cesar Batiz, loosely translated as «FBI looking at Venezuelan company». Batiz is the investigative reporter who was recently recognised  for his series of articles exposing overpricing -in the hundreds of millions of dollars- by three companies that had been contracted by the Venezuelan State to solve the power crisis. One of those three companies is Derwick Associates.

In his latest instalment, Batiz comments on information that Steven Bodzin and I shared with him, about U.S. agencies -such as Treasury, Homeland Security, State- and the FBI, phishing for information about Derwick Associates and its American partners in Google. As I explained, it is rather easy to find out who visits this blog, and how visitors get here, just by accessing the blog’s visits’ statistics. Thus, since I started writing about Derwick, back in October, I have seen an increase of visits from those agencies, and have tweeted about it. This picked Batiz’s interest, so he did the only right thing to do, and sent a request for comment to Derwick. From there, things have taken expected and entirely predictable turns.

As Batiz reports today, Derwick Associates denies any knowledge about U.S. Federal Agencies looking for information about them. It would be silly to think that they would admit otherwise, but the question had to be asked. Derwick repeated again a number of preposterous allegations about being victimised by some sort of global defamation campaign, orchestrated from the office of Oscar Garcia Mendoza. Derwick Associates went further in its reply to Batiz, and claimed that I am a proxy of Garcia Mendoza. This merits further probing.

Since Batiz first published about it on August 2011, Derwick Associates and its Kasowitz Benson Torres Friedman lawyers have been sending threatening letters to most of the people who, at one time or another, have made comments and / or written about Batiz’s work. Batiz, and Ultimas Noticias, are the origin of Derwick’s PR nightmare. But only last week did Hector Torres (New York-based Derwick’s lawyer) send one of his letters to Batiz, who is based in Caracas. Torres’ letter was in English, perhaps no one has explained to Mr Torres that Venezuela’s official language is Spanish. It would seem that Mr Torres due diligence on his clients is not up to par either, but more on that later.

I have taken a keen interest in Derwick Associates. To be perfectly frank, it fascinates me how a bunch of inexperienced kids managed to get 12 contracts from the Chavez regime. This is not some fluke, the odd contract here or there. No. This is über dedocracy we are talking about. In fact, Derwick claims in its lawsuit against Garcia Mendoza that they participated in 25 bidding processes, of which they got 12 contracts. That is to say, a fly-by-night, without credible track record anywhere managed to win half the bids the Venezuelan State allegedly put out to solve the electricity crisis nationwide? When I put this to Batiz, he said «whoa, 25 bidding processes? Where? Licitamail (website that lists Venezuelan public bids) didn’t even publish information about 25 calls for bids!»

Derwick Associates’ N229DA Falcon 2000

So I have been doing some digging, and found, for instance, that Derwick Associates appears as airplane operator in Spain’s Official Gazette (Boletin Official del Estado). There are reports in the Spanish press about Derwick’s CEO, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, awe-inspiring, four-day-celebrations, 500-guests wedding, attended by people that arrived in 20 private jets. I passed all that info to Batiz, and he fetched Derwick’s Falcon 2000  N-plate (pictured) from a source. With that it was easy to find further info (page 153), and some flight logs. There’s also the bit about the 1,600-hectares hunting farm that Derwick Associates allegedly bought in Toledo (Spain) from (now jailed) conman Gerardo Diaz Ferran. I have been trying to get my hands on documents related to this purchase, to clear some doubts as per role of Alejandro Betancourt’s mother and others in the operation, but have met with a rather hostile and totally uncooperative registrar in Registro de la Propiedad de Escalona, who simply refused to send documentation -which is far from secret- from the registry.

Every attempt made to date by Batiz, and Ultimas Noticias’ editor, to get more information about the contracts between Derwick and PDVSA, CORPOELEC, and EDC has been met with silence by Derwick and official stonewalling. Derwick’s argument to Batiz is that it can not reveal content of contracts for confidentiality reasons, which is simply bullshit: there’s not a single piece of current legislation in Venezuela that allows public institutions to spend public funds contracting with Venezuelan companies that permits confidentiality clauses. It is unknown just how much public money it got in total, what is crystal clear is that the Derwick boys are burning it, in all manner of fancy toys, like there’s no tomorrow, properly grotesque nouveau rich behaviour. Moreover, these parvenues might just have provided involuntarily plausible explanations of the alleged overpricing.

Despite all its seemingly ill-gotten wealth, however, Derwick Associates has a huge PR problem. It draw -unnecessarily- much attention to itself when it sued Oscar Garcia Mendoza in a Florida court, and started threatening bloggers and journalists all over the place. Its tactics have been idiotic, to put it mildly. Some clueless SEO hacks have been busy registering -on Derwick’s behalf- dozens of domains that include the names of Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez and Pedro Trebbau Lopez in it (such as leopoldoalejandrobetancourtlopez.org). Variations of same domain names -including Derwick- have also been registered (such as pedrotrebbaulopezderwick.com). In general, all websites contain information that has no relation whatsoever to Derwick’s only known line of business. But what’s that lot trying to hide, that they need so many fake websites with totally irrelevant information? Then, there’s their lawyers’ letters, when that fails, they send halfwit spin-doctors to deal with the issue. When that fails, they openly admit they are trying to delete information from Wikipedia!

Derwick is now claiming, without explicitly mentioning my name, that I am a proxy of Oscar Garcia Mendoza. Derwick has also mentioned this blog as part of a «defamation campaign». Derwick’s Wikipedia editor (FinanceReferee) diligently informed yesterday about an amendment to the original claim, filed on Friday. How did he/she know so quickly that Derwick had filed an amendment? More evidence, if that was ever needed, of the utter unreliability of Wikipedia, amenable to editing by all sorts of disreputable characters.

As of this writing, I must be the only person who is yet to receive a threatening letter from Mr Torres and / or his clients. I actually look forward to any form of communication from Derwick Associates, which if I get will be replying here. The further Derwick Associates carries on with its kill-a-mosquito-with-a-bazooka strategy, while ignoring Batiz’s perfectly valid questions, the worse it’ll turn out for them. Their claims of proven track record, experience, business methods and so on have been grossly exaggerated and just don’t stack up. It was very easy to double check Betancourt’s and Trebbau’s work experience claims with Venezuela’s National Insurance contributions database (IVSS). There’s loads of evidence to expose Derwick Associates as liars just a click away. If the Derwick boys are stupid or ignorant enough to insist in having their day in an independent court of law, in America, their non-existent reputation, and their sudden wealth, will be damaged forevermore.

Tomado de FBI looking at Derwick Associates