Derwick Founders Face Appeal in Venezuela Bribery Claim Suit

  • Ex-U.S. ambassador’s pursues 2013 racketeering claims
  • Swiss regulators said in March that U.S. was probing Derwick

A former U.S. ambassador is pursuing claims that two Derwick Associates Corp. founders tried to discredit him for his attempts to expose their bribery of Venezuelan officials even after a judge threw out his case.

Otto Reich, the former ambassador to Venezuela, has asked a federal appeals court in New York to reinstate his lawsuit against Alejandro Betancourt and Pedro Trebbau. The suit was thrown out last year after a judge ruled Reich hadn’t shown the case should be tried in New York and failed to establish a connection between the alleged wire fraud and the bribery in Venezuela.

“Betancourt and Trebbau have amassed an enormous fortune by illicitly paying multimillion-dollar bribes to public officials in Venezuela who, in turn, award Derwick energy-sector construction contracts,” Reich said June 8 in court papers. He called the people of Venezuela indirect victims, saying since their government was overbilled by $2.9 billion.

Betancourt lives in New York, where he owns a multimillion-dollar home, and he and Trebbau have substantial relationships with banks, law firms and public relations firms, according to the filing.

‘Without Merit’

“I feel comfortable that the court will see that his appeal as to Trebbau is without merit,” said Joseph DeMaria, a lawyer for Trebbau. Frank Wohl, an attorney for Betancourt, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Swiss regulators said in March they had agreed to turn over records from at least 18 banks involving Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which is the subject of a widening corruption investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. The records were sought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan in connection with his office’s investigation into representatives of Derwick Associates, the Federal Office of Justice in Bern said at the time. That office didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Friday.

DeMaria said at the time that any probe by U.S. authorities is part of a “continuous witch hunt” against his clients. DeMaria represents both Betancourt and Trebbau in a separate Florida lawsuit that claimed they bribed Venezuelan officials.?

Betancourt has also been involved in Pacific Exploration and Production Corp., where a plan to expand the company amid the worst crude meltdown in decades has turned into a restructuring in Canadian courts.

The case is Otto J. Reich Associates LLC v. Betancourt, 16-0510, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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