Former Hydrocarbons Minister Pedro Merizalde Pavón has kept a secret for six years: an offshore company of his kept an account with the Bank of Canada (Suisse), in Geneva, to which payments came from Odebrecht.
THE UNIVERSE agreed to five bank transfers for a total of $ 320,000, made between April and August 2013. An additional payment was made in October of that year for $ 100,000, but this bounced, according to bank records.
The State Attorney General’s Office has had two of these transactions in its hands since July 2017. It was received through an international criminal assistance requested by Panama.
The transfers are included in the file due to the illicit association of the Odebrecht case, for which former Vice President Jorge Glas and other involved parties were sentenced to six years in prison. Merizalde was not linked to that process.
The Prosecutor’s Office has opened two investigations against Merizalde for possible money laundering and perjury since 2016. The cases are still in the reserved phase.
Merizalde received the money from two sources. First, from the Panamanian Columbia Management Inc., of the Ecuadorian businessman Édgar Arias Quiroz, who participated in the Odebrecht bribery scheme. These payments consist in the movements of an account that Columbia Management had in BBP Bank, of Panama.
The transfers in favor of Merizalde also came from an account of Meinl Bank (Antigua), which was in the name of Klienfeld Services Ltd., a company that Odebrecht used to co-operate with officials from several countries.
These latest payments are included in the encrypted system Drousys, designed by the Brazilian company to register its illicit payments. This week, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the archives of that system, which were obtained by La Posta, in a project in which EL UNIVERSO participated.
THE UNIVERSE contacted Merizalde by email, but received no response. He was one of the hard men in the oil sector during the Corismo. In 2011, he was appointed general manager of the Pacific Refinery. As such, in August 2012, it signed a $ 230 million contract with Odebrecht to move the land on the land where the refinery would be built.
In October of that year, the law firm Mossack Fonseca (MF) created the company Horgan Investments Inc. in Panama. In the articles of incorporation, he registered the second floor of the MF building as the company’s address. That same address appears in the transfers received from Columbia Management.
Barely constituted Horgan Investments, MF put all the shares of this in the name of Merizalde. However, he did not record this investment in the sworn statements of assets that he presented before the Comptroller’s Office as a public official.
Horgan Investments began receiving transfers from Odebrecht in April 2013. At the end of that month, Merizalde became Minister of Hydrocarbons and payments continued to flow until August of that year.
Then Merizalde became an advisor to the then vice president Jorge Glas and in April 2016 he became the general manager of Petroecuador.
When he occupied that position, he faced the revelations of the Panama Papers, the leaking of the internal documents of MF, which highlighted the bribes in Petroecuador and the relationship between Merizalde and Horgan Investments. At that time, his response was that he did form that company and that he did not register it in his property declarations because, according to him, it never worked.
The then president Rafael Correa backed Merizalde and kept him in office. In a press conference the exmandatario indicated: “Pedro Merizalde has been asked (…) to eliminate his company and that never worked, that is, he has not traded 20 cents”. At the end of 2016, Correa appointed his brother, General César Merizalde Pavón, as head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces.
As he continued in the general management of Petroecuador, Pedro Merizalde was in charge of denouncing his predecessor, Alex Bravo Panchano, for the bribes in that company.
In July 2016, Merizalde closed Horgan Investments and published the dissolution in its Twitter account with this message: “Nothing fears who works with ethics: document evidence that I had no economic activity in Panama and the company is closed.”
See image on Twitter
See image on Twitter
See image on Twitter
Pedro Merizalde P. @ MerizaldePedro
Nothing fears who works with ethics: evidence that I had no economic activity in Panama and the company is closed.4620: 59 – 28 Jul. 201661 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads information and privacy
According to the Panama Papers, it was the Ecuadorian lawyer Frank Chatburn who asked MF for the opening of Horgan Investments. He faces a trial in Miami (USA) for the bribes in Petroecuador.
In his indictment, the US Attorney’s Office described, without naming him, one of the bribed: “He held several functions from 2012 to 2016, including Pacific Refinery, Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Petroecuador.” The review fits with Merizalde.