Newman George

There remain more questions than answers about the Paria Fuel Trading and ES Euro Shipping SA fuel deal which contracted and sent a shipment of fuel destined for Aruba. This after the Aruban government yesterday distanced itself from that deal, telling Guardian Media it did not purchase a shipment of fuel from Trinidad and Tobago.

The issue became contentious after international reports surfaced that ES Euro Shipping SA owner Wilmer Ruperti may have diverted the 150,000-barrel fuel shipment to Venezuela.

However, Aruba, which is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, confirmed, through its embassy here in T&T, that there was no purchase of fuel by them.

The Embassy said, “The purchase of fuel is the autonomous responsibility of the government of Aruba. The Aruban authorities informed the Embassy that they did not purchase a shipment of fuel from Trinidad and Tobago.”

Guardian Media sent questions to the Kingdom of Netherlands through the local Embassy in Port-of-Spain on May 13. In our list of questions, we asked about the state of the Aruban refinery and energy facilities and also where Aruba usually purchases it fuel.

“The refinery in Aruba has been inactive since its shutdown in 2011,” the Embassy said.

As to the source of its fuel supplies, the Embassy responded, “These days, Aruba purchases its fuel from the US Gulf Coast.”

The Embassy admitted to being aware of the current issue being debated internationally and in T&T on the matter.

“The Kingdom of the Netherlands is aware of the reports that a shipment of fuel may have been rerouted to Venezuela. As stated, the Aruban authorities have not purchased shipments of fuel from Trinidad and Tobago,” the Embassy said.

It made it clear that the “Venezuelan company PDVSA shows no interest in the Aruban refinery.”

ES Euro Shipping is wholly-owned by Ruperti, a Venezuelan shipping tycoon with close ties to embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Ruperti has been accused previously of rerouting fuel shipments to Venezuela.

Paria Fuel Trading chairman Newman George and the company have both claimed all due diligence was completed and it only became aware of the possibility by time the ship was loaded with the fuel on April 21 but only after it was circulated in the public domain that the shipment was in Aruba that the company ES Euro Shipping produced a redacted bill of sale from an Aruban company.

In a full-page advertisement published in the Guardian yesterday, Paria Fuel Trading Company said on March 28, 2020, ES Euro Shipping, a company registered and based in Geneva, Switzerland, approached the company to purchase gasoline with an initial destination to St Eustatius and which was subsequently changed to Aruba.

The vessel the Aldan was approved to collect the fuel on April 12.

However, on April 14, Paria said it was advised by one of the independent contractors retained to provide services to the vessel that the nomination to provide the service was requested by a company with Venezuelan ties. Paria said it advised Euro Shipping it could not transact business with any Venezuelan company and that its product could not be shipped to Venezuela.

On April 21, the vessel left Trinidad and on April 23 Paria said it contacted Euro Shipping based on information in the public domain surrounding the final destination of the fuel being Venezuela and was advised that the final destination was Aruba. Paria said a redacted sales contract with the local buyer in Aruba was provided, which included a sanctions clause. It said an amended contract was issued with the final destination as Aruba with an appropriate clause advising of the sanctions.

George told Guardian Media previously that he was contacted on March 28 by ES Euro Shipping SA and the company expressed an interest in purchasing 150,000 barrels of fuel.

From Paria’s full-page advertisement, it is unclear if they intend to continue to do business with the company.

— Renuka Singh