Since 2019, the UK’s ruling Conservative Party has received over £471,000 from a company with apparent links to Venezuela’s coup-plotting opposition.
Juan Guaidó launched a coup attempt in Venezuela in January 2019. Two months later, one of his cousins incorporated a private company in the UK. The company – Fondo Venezolano de Desarrollo (FIVENDES) Ltd – had three directors. These were Juan Salcedo Márquez (Guaidó’s cousin), lawyer Juan Pablo Livinalli, and banker Germán Rivero Zerpa.
Rivero was also a director of Britannia Financial Group Limited. And since late 2019, this banking company has given over £471,000 to the Conservative Party. Rivero had resigned from Britannia Financial Group Limited by the time of the donations. But the company’s links with the Venezuelan opposition don’t seem to end there.
“End up like Gadaffi”
There are numerous ‘Britannia’ companies, involving many of the same people.* At the centre of them is Italian/Venezuelan economist and banker Julio Herrera Velutini. Herrera is reportedly one of Venezuela’s richest people. His family, meanwhile, has a long, prominent history in Venezuela’s banking sector.
Another person whose involvement is a common factor in the Britannia companies is Gabriela Maldonado Urrecheaga. She is the secretary of a number of these companies, and a director of one. In two of the companies, however, there appears to have been a misspelling of her name as Gabriela “Maldonaldo” (a very uncommon surname in Spanish). It’s under this name that she appears as the current secretary of Britannia Financial Group Limited.
A Twitter account that seems to fit Maldonado’s description has frequently expressed strong opposition to Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. In 2014, for example, the account tweeted:
Maduro has 2 options to leave power. End up like Gadaffi or end up like Yanukovich…
Former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych fled his country in 2014 during a coup. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, on the other hand, was sodomised and murdered by NATO-backed forces in 2011. US senator Marco Rubio, a fervent supporter of the coup efforts in Venezuela, tweeted a similar threat relating to Gaddafi’s death in February 2019.
This Twitter account now seems to be in disuse. Phoenix Media Co-op has also avoided linking directly to this account or sharing its handle here due to the difficulty in confirming it belongs to the same Maldonado who works with Britannia.
Degrees of separation
Salcedo opened the Fondo Venezolano de Desarrollo (FIVENDES) Ltd in the UK in March 2019 as director and majority shareholder. Rivero and Livinalli were also directors (and continue to work together elsewhere*). This organisation officially dissolved in September 2020.
Livinalli claimed in 2019 that:
Mr Juan Salcedo, the only shareholder of the company is, to the best of my knowledge, an honorable person with knowledge of the business and he made it clear that this undertaking has nothing to do with the political activities of his cousin Juan Guaidó, in Venezuela.
Rivero, meanwhile, was the director of Britannia Financial Group Limited between October 2016 and his resignation in February 2018. This banking organisation donated a total of £471,854 to the UK Conservative Party between 2019 and 2020. The main shareholder of this organisation is Julio Herrera Velutini, who has owned numerous other companies with Rivero. The two were working together up until at least January 2020. So there were business links between Salcedo, Herrera, and Rivero during the time of donations to the Conservative Party.
Phoenix Media Co-op could not find contact details for Britannia Financial Group. However, we asked Britannia Bank & Trust Limited (a “Britannia Financial Group Company” which is “regulated and licensed by The Central Bank of The Bahamas”) for comment. We had received no reply by the time of publication.
In January 2019, the US government joined with Venezuelan elites to launch a coup attempt against Venezuela’s government. The largely unknown Juan Guaidó was the figurehead of this campaign. And US allies including the UK’s Conservative government quickly joined efforts to install Guaidó in power. The UK withheld Venezuelan gold, for example; and it also created a secretive government unit for Venezuela’s ‘reconstruction’.
The Venezuelan government is in the middle of an ongoing legal struggle to regain control of its gold. At the same time, Guaidó continues to have access to Venezuelan resources in the US that the latter has withheld from Venezuela’s government.
In the UK, meanwhile, stories of alleged Conservative Party corruption abound. And in this context, it’s important to ask just why Venezuela-linked Britannia Financial Group Limited has given over £471,000 to the ruling party.
Herrera is currently director of Britannia Global Estates Limited, Britannia Dubai Holdings Limited, Britannia Global Management Limited, Britannia Global Payments Limited, Britannia Investment Corp Limited, Britannia Global Markets Limited, Cibanca Finance Group Limited, and Britannia Global Investments Limited.
Rivero was formerly director of Consorcio Inversionista Cibanca Ltd, Transban Financial Group Limited, and Banvelca & Company Limited (all alongside Herrera), and is currently director of Valzerca Capital Limited, Berkeley Bank & Trust (Uk Representative Office) Ltd, Berkeley Financial Holdings Ltd, and Berkeley Capital Services Ltd (all alongside Livinalli).
Gabriela Maldonado Urrecheaga is secretary of Britannia Financial Group Limited and Britannia Dubai Holdings Limited (in both cases, as “Maldonaldo”), and of Britannia Global Markets Limited, Britannia Investment Corp Limited, Britannia Global Investments Limited, and Britannia Global Management Limited (she’s also a director of this final company). Mexican citizen Sofía Saracho de Oyarzabal, meanwhile, is a director of all of these companies. Maldonado and Saracho are both directors of International Art Group (Interart) Limited too; and this company shares the same London address as several ‘Britannia’ companies.
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