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Nepotism and 'Dark Activities': Oil, Cuba and Venezuela

The brother of GAESA’s boss is behind a tanker travelling between the island and Venezuela.


On March 12, a day after the disputed Acting President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, demanded cutting the supply of crude oil to Havana, an oil tanker called Petion was in Puerto La Cruz, in the state of Anzoategui (Venezuela).

In the previous 90 days the ship had made voyages between Cienfuegos, where the refinery inaugurated by Hugo Chavez is located, and Venezuela, stopping at several ports in the South American country and leaving a "suspicious" trail, DIARIO DE CUBA found, in collaboration with the C4ADS project, after analysing data from the Windward platform.

Petion sails under a Panamanian flag, but both the company that owns it (Trocana World INC) and its operator (Caroil Transport Marine LTD) are under the control of Guillermo Faustino Rodríguez López-Callejas, the brother of Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, the powerful ex son-in-law of Raúl Castro and the head the of the Cuban military's powerful business conglomerate (GAESA).

The records examined show that on January the tanker was at the José Antonio Anzoátegui Petrochemical Complex (CJAA) in the city of Barcelona, Venezuela, in the state of Anzoátegui, a facility responsible for 65% of the oil exported from the South American country, according to various sources.

After a trip to Cienfuegos, Petion returned to CJAA and was then located (on February 14) in El Palito, an oil refining complex located in Puerto Cabello, in the state of Carabobo.

This week, however, it was in Puerto La Cruz (Sotillo, Anzoátegui), where there is also a crude refinery.

Experts consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA speculated that its movements between Venezuelan refineries could be a result of the drop in oil production in the South American country, which could make it difficult to fill a tanker with a capacity for 524,217 barrels of oil.

If this is the case, this precarious situation might very well be impacting Venezuela's supply of oil to Cuba, and the danger of a critical scenario on the island, in the event the Maduro regime falls and Venezuela oil supplies dry up, would seem to be significant.

According to various press reports, shipments of Venezuelan oil to Cuba have already dropped by at least 40%.

"Dark activities"

According to the data analyzed by C4ADS and DIARIO DE CUBA, between January 24 and February 6 (13 days), when it was in Cienfuegos, the Petion engaged in "dark activities" —a term used in its logs to denote that contact with the ship was lost, which suggests that the crew turned off the satellite tracking device for some undisclosed purpose.

The Windward platform has reported that ships from countries such as North Korea systematically resort to going dark to violate United Nations sanctions and secure greater imports of oil and its byproducts by engaging in ship-to-ship transfers at sea. The same strategy has been used by boats from Iran and Syria.

The "disappearance" of Petion in Cuba coincided for several days with that of the tanker Carlota C, engaged in dark activities for a month (from January 7 and February 4).

The Carlota C is also operated by Caroil Transport Marine LTD, as are four other oil tankers: the Lia and the MOS, which have not appeared in the logs since 2015 and 2016, respectively; the Sandino, which was in Punta Cardón (Venezuela) on February 12, where the refining center of Paraguaná is located; and the Gloria C, located in Cienfuegos on February 10.

The records of both the Gloria C (February 2019) and the Lia (January 2015) reveal "dark activities" lasting several days in Cuba, while in the MOS's there are incidents of this type in Algeria in February 2016.

Trocana World, Caroil Transport Marine and the Rodríguez López-Callejas "seal"

Trocana World, the company that owns Petion, has been registered in Panama since 2007 and appears in financial reports of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as one of its indirect subsidiaries.

50% of Trocana is owned by PDVSA Cuba, based in Havana, and 50% is held by Wagoneer International Limited, of which there is little information on the Internet.

Caroil Transport Marine LTD, meanwhile, the operator of the Petion and the other five vessels mentioned, has had offices in Cyprus since 1992 and in Hong Kong since 2007.

In 2009, the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde described the Petion and Sandino as tankers dedicated "to the transport of crude oil and its byproducts" between the countries that make up the Petrocaribe alliance, created by the government of Hugo Chávez to strengthen its political influence in the region through the sale of cheap oil under preferential payment conditions.

The Sandino is owned by  Tovase Development Corp, while Trocana is registered in Panama, headed by Guillermo Faustino Rodríguez López-Callejas, and with 50% of its shares held by PDVSA Cuba. The other 50% belongs to Variation LTD.

The name of Guillermo Faustino, of whom there are no images on the internet, appeared in 2016 in the Panama Papers, the massive leak of documents of the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which revealed a network of offshore companies created by the Cuban State to carry out import and export activities and investments abroad.

The brother of GAESA's head was then listed as the representative of several companies, in addition to Trocana, Tovase and Caroil Transport Marine: Acemex Management Company Limited, Nautilus Shipping Overseas Corp, Northsouth Maritime Company Limited, Gulf Lake Enterprises Ltd, Acando Shipping Co. Ltd, andGilmar Project Finance Establishment, with addresses in Miramar and in Old Havana.

Cuban laws do not include specific regulations on state officials linked to offshore companies, and the government tends to remain secretive about these companies' activities.

It is not clear how the companies headed by Guillermo Faustino Rodríguez López-Callejas operate, or with how much autonomy, how much they earn off their operations, or how much they hand over to the State.

The "Business Administration Group" (GAESA), led by his brother Luis Alberto, includes Petraf, an importer and exporter of mineral fuels, and the Servi-Cupet gas stations, which belong to the Cimex Corporation.

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