According to the DOJ (Department of Justice), the governing authorities in the United States arrested and held a wealthy man accountable for bribing Venezuelan officers to get procurement agreements/ contracts from state-regulated or state-controlled energy and food companies and hiding bribes. This man was known to be a rich Syrian national residing in Florida.
Naman Wakil, a 59 year old man, reputedly bribed the officers at a food company named CASA (Corporación de Abastecimiento y Servicios Agrícola) and energy company named PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.) to gain about 250 million U.S. dollars in agreements. Those contracts involved selling edibles to CASA and doing business with PDVSA, which are both big Venezuelan companies.
He hid the money connected to the bribes from and to bank accounts in Florida and bought a plane worth 3.5 million dollars, a yacht worth 1.5 million dollars, and ten condominiums, among other lavish purchases. According to the DOJ, if condemned as guilty, Wakil will face prison for the rest of his life.
It is not Wakil’s first time to be put in the spotlight and center of disrepute. In 2016, The Panama Papers, part of the McClatchy series, mentioned Wakil in a scandal that emerged when journalists exposed how Mossack Fonseca (law firm in Panama) helped their wealthy clients avoid taxes and hid their money through offshore accounts.
Moreover, Wakil’s business undertakings lead him to get in contact with the higher ranks of the government in Venezuela. One for them was General Carlos Zambrano, who was said to be in partnership with Wakil in allegedly defrauding the government in procurement scams involving millions of dollars. However, General Zambrano denied being part of the deal.
Zambrano was the executive of CASA in 2012, and Wakil reportedly bribed two Venezuelan officials, who were said to be the brothers of Zambrano’s wife, to get a beef acquisition contract. He bought about 40,000 tons of beef from Brazil at a cheap rate because it was nearly expiring. However, in his declared invoices to the Venezuelan government, he claimed that he purchased all the beef at the standard market price. As a result, he was able to profit 76 million U.S. dollars while evading tax.
According to leaked email messages from the said Panamanian firm, Wakil’s net worth is nearly 400 million U.S. dollars. Most of that money came from illicitly acquiring contracts from the government. Venezuela fell into the trap of Wakil, losing an extremely huge amount of money stolen from its economy, not excluding money gained through CASA and PDVSA.
For that reason, the economy in Venezuela has faced a great decline in the past few years, which lead to increased levels of great poverty, destitution, and emigration. Just one act of bribery from a single man made a lot of Venezuelans suffer from impoverishment. If convicted of his crime, Wakil will face imprisonment for 80 years.