Thursday, August 1, 2013


Ambassador Otto Reich
Otto Reich, the retired US diplomat, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has filed a suit in US District Court in New York*, alleging civil RICO violations, and for several other counts, in what is said to be a major governmental corruption scandal in Venezuela. The defendants, who all appear to be Venezuelan nationals, working in New York's financial district are:

(1) Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez
(2) Pedro José Trebbau Lopez
(3) Francisco D'Agostino Casado
Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez
The thrust of the complaint is that the defendants allegedly regularly pay huge amounts of bribe money to governmental officials in Venezuela, in order to obtain lucrative contracts in that country's energy sector, for the construction of  power plants. Can you say Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ? This case will further expose the rampant, runaway official corruption that exists in Venezuela, and which is one of the reasons that its Country Risk assessment is sky-high.

 It is further charged that the defendants' company, Derwick Associates, which does not have the capability to complete these projects, sub-contracts the work out to others. The defendants, in essence, earn obscene profits, strictly for their connection to corrupt government officials, making them Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), by even the most strict definition of that term.
Pedro Jose Trebbau Lopez
 One wonders whether any of the New York banks that serve these PEPs handled the bribe payments, and what they must be thinking since this suit was filed. The payment of bribes to Venezuelan government officials, to obtain favorable contracts, is unfortunately a nearly universal event in the hemisphere's most corrupt country, and regular enhanced due diligence on such clients, and their lines of business, would be banking best practices, at a minimum.

Additionally, it is charged that the defendants libeled and defamed Ambassador Reich, and in doing so tortiously interfered with his business relationships with clients and prospective clients.

The precise counts are:

(A) Civil RICO.
(B) Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.
(C) Trade Libel and Defamation.
(D) Civil Conspiracy.

The plaintiff is seeking $2m in damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.
* Case No.: 13-cv-5307 (SDNY).

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