Venezuelan shipping magnate sued by Russian government for $ 17m for fraud
Kenneth Rijockhttp://www.world-check.comDecember 19, 2007Wilmer Jose Ruperti Perdomo, a leading independent shipowner in Venezuela, has been sued in US District Court in New York, and charged with committing massive fraud against companies owned by the Russian state. The total amount claimed, including attorneys' fees, is US$17.1m. Ruperti, who controls his Panamanian-domiciled companies, Sea Pioneer Shipping Corporation, and PMI Trading Inc., is charged with a breach of his fiduciary duties, in earning secret profits and undisclosed covert payments, in connection with charters of Plaintiffs' oil tankers by PdVSA, Venezuela's government-controlled petrochemical agency. He is accused of committing charter party fraud.The parent company of the plaintiff Novoship is Novorossiysk Shipping Company, of which the government of Russia is the majority owner.The plainttiffs' vessels chartered through Ruperti were:* M/T Marshal Chuykov* M/T Moscow Kremlin* M/T Moscow StarsThe suit charges that the fraud was accomplished using charter party fraud* The vessels were first chartered to a Ruperti-controlled entity, and then sub-chartered to PdVSA "at very much higher rates.* False documents were prepared to conceal this arrangement from the plaintiffs, and to give the impression that the charters were made directly with PdVSA* Bribes were paid to facilitate the scheme, so that the plaintiffs would continue to be deceived.The plaintiffs also have filed a parallel action in the United Kingdom, in the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division,Commercial Court, in London, and they filed the New York lawsuit to attach assets of the defendants located within the Southern District of New York.An ex parte order of maritime attachment and garnishment was issued, but the court file does not contain any information regarding the results, though there is a reference later to the fact that assets have been attached or seized. The defendants' motion to dissolve the order was denied as moot when the First Amended verified Complaint was filed in the action. The case is not yet at issue.Sr. Ruperti [UID 441484] is a well-known member of the so-called Bolivarian Elite, a group of Venezuelan businessmen who do business with their government, and who are extraordinarily close to President Chavez, and he is regarded as a close associate of numerous Venezuelan Politically Exposed Persons, or PEPs. He reportedly earned a masters in shipping and finance from Plymouth Polytechnic, and has been linked to several Venezuelans, including a number of bankers, currently under investigation by US law enforcement.The progress of this major lawsuit will be closely watched by observers of the rise of the Bolivarian Elite, and World-Check will continue to report on all important developments as they occur.