ES Euro Shipping SA, the company that purchased some 150,000 barrels of fuel from Paria Fuel Trading, has a total of six employees and earns annual revenue of under US$1 million.
According to information received by Guardian Media, the company earned just over US$755,000 in annual sales last year.
The company shares its registered address with seven other companies, was incorporated in 2016 and has just one contact person on its management team. That point person, French-born Matthieu Leneez, was appointed to the post in 2019.
Leneez is also the single point person for Maroil Trading AG, another company wholly-owned by Jose Guillermo Wilmer Ruperti.
This was some of the information that Paria received when it requested details of the company before the deal was brokered.
Despite the low annual earning, ES Euro paid Paria a reported $5 million for the shipment. Guardian Media was unable to confirm this figure, as Paria chairman Newman George did not respond to calls or texts.
Paria sold ES Euro Shipping two different grades of already refined premium gasoline which was shipped by Ruperti to Aruba.
There have been unsubstantiated reports that the shipment ended up in Venezuela.
There are now questions about whether the spot sale by Paria Fuel Trading may have been part of the discussion in a meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez on March 27.
One of the main questions being raised in the energy sector meanwhile is why Paria Fuel Trading chairman Newman George got involved in the sale in the first place, as it is a management issue and not something usually dealt with at board level.
Immediate past Petrotrin chairman, Wilfred Espinet yesterday referred to a newspaper article which examined the contract and said he was “no longer confused or suspicious” about the sale.
“The issue is why is the Government asked about it and responded to questions about it. The company is not managed by Government. The staff should have been asked about it from the beginning and all this would have been avoided,” Espinet said in a WhatsApp exchange.
“The question on the VP (of Venezuela) is a completely different item and may need further clarity.”
George had previously said he was contacted by Ruperti on March 28 for the sale of the excess fuel. This was one day after Rowley met Rodriguez.
“I am on the record for the distancing of commercial enterprise from governments, specifically the administration office,” Espinet said.
“My experience is that the politicians make statements that is equivalent to selfies for attention to themselves. The chair and all the Government ministers should never have responded. The company would have done it and not have had this distraction.”
He said the insertion of Government and the chairman in this matter was a “demonstration of power and control” and little else.
The company, according to the newspaper report, conducted due diligence and there were two clauses and two assurances that the fuel could not be sold to a sanctioned company.
Espinet could not shed any light on what that due diligence entailed.
“That is not a detail that would come to the board. The contracts are developed and vetted by legal professionals, these include trade experts and organisations,” he said.
Former Petrotrin president Kenneth Allum yesterday said sanction clauses are a normal part of any energy contract.Allum was president of Petrotrin between 2009 and 2012.
“In all sale contracts, you have to have a clause on sanctions because you do not want to go into a country that is sanctioned,” Allum said.
Allum too questioned why Paria was inserted in the Rowley/Rodriguez dialogue.
“To me, it seems to be blown out of proportion. It seems to be a simple sale as far as I am concerned. You do spot as well as contract sales,” he said.
He said the due diligence would entail finding out and ensuring the company was a bonafide organisation.
“And that has the financials, who are the directors, that kind of thing to make sure that you are dealing with someone who is a bona fide person or company that can buy your product,” he said.
Allum said that there is a basic list for checking due diligence but that could be expanded as needed.Former Petrotrin CEO Khalid Hassanali meanwhile said he was following the matter of the sale of fuel but since demitting office he has not commented on Petrotrin matters.
But Hassanali, who was Petrotrin CEO from May 2012 to October 2015, agreed that such sales was not part of the board’s remit.
“However, it is unusual for the executives not to have known about such a high profile sale,” he said.
Hassanali did not want to speculate any further on the matter.
Guardian Media also reached out to former chairman Lindsay Gillette but there was no response. Guardian Media emailed Paria’s General Manager Mushtaq Mohammed through his communications contact and was told that a response would be forthcoming.
Guardian Media sent the following questions to Mohammed:1. Can the General Manager explain how he was informed of the request for sale of fuel?2. A request was made to Paria Fuel on March 28. How was that contact made? Via telephone? Email?3. What are the usual list of documents requested from a company requesting a spot sale of fuel? How are these documents then verified?4. If the due diligence process produced no red flags, then why the need for two clauses and two assurances to prevent the fuel from ending up in a sanctioned country?5. Were those clauses part of the original contract or part of the amendments later added?
In a follow-up telephone call, Mohammed said he had seen the questions but would need to confer with his “chairman before responding”.
Neither Mohammed nor his communications person responded to subsequent requests for an update.