Insults, threats, pleas and frustration reflect the 23 conversations that Petroecuador's former contractor, Ramiro Luque Flores (of GalileoEnergy), recorded for Frank Chatburn Ripalda and whose content was presented by prosecutors in the process against the financial intermediary who pleaded guilty in the United States last Friday.
The reason: Luque was demanding the return of $ 2 million of his profit from Petroecuador's contracts, invested through Chatburn in a one-year fund. To that was added the return, or at least the timely payment of quarterly interest, of another investment of $ 125 thousand in the name of his mother and placed through Biscayne Capital.RELATED
"I have fulfilled you as I have always fulfilled you … And I will continue to look good with you," a comprehensive Chatburn told Luque on September 20, 2017, without even imagining that his Ecuadorian client was collaborating with US prosecutors and that was the third conversation he recorded. The 23 recordings, between August 10 and December 4, 2017, are part of the judicial process to which EL UNIVERSO had access.
With that collaboration, Luque reduced his sentence, in an open process in New York also for money laundering. Chatburn, on the other hand, will be sentenced in December of this year and the penalty could reach up to 20 years.
In 2016, the names of Luque and Chatburn had already been published in the Ecuadorian press for the revelations of the Panama Papers, and the contractor, who received more than $ 37 million in business with Petroecuador. Luque had processed the registration of companies in Panama with Mossack Fonseca, for Álex Bravo and Arturo Escobar, through Chatburn and Biscayne Capital.
In that meeting, Chatburn already suspected that they might be listening and chose to leave his cell phone in the vehicle before entering the cafeteria. The main problem for the return of the $ 2 million, which had already been invested one year, was that Luque had to give the name of a company that had no relationship with him, as well as a bank account to complete the banking process.
Chatburn also offered him a “new product”, through a bank account in the Deutsche Bank managed by internet, in the style of an investment fund, with a credit card without a holder, only with the name “Concierge”. That way I wouldn't pay taxes in the US. They said goodbye after a little more than an hour, promising that Luque would gather the documents.
On October 3, Luque met with Chatburn and José Larrea Alarcón, another intermediary who already pleaded guilty in the US, to hand them the company documents and thus be able to finalize the transfer. Chatburn asked Luque for Larrea to make a discount on the usual 3% commission.
From then on the relationship begins to sour. Days go by and there is no concrete response from Chatburn about the money back. On November 15 everything explodes because another complication is added: Luque had an open process by bribery in Panama.
“I'm worth v … That money is here and that's it. They have to give me the money! ”, Says an exasperated Luque on the phone, to which Chatburn replies“ They saved you, they protected you. You must be grateful to those people. ”
Chatburn tried to calm Luque by telling him that the transfer was not yet approved. "The amount of damage you have done to me I can not describe … Believe me that I want to end this egg … more than you," he says.
One of the last conversations took place on November 27 when a distrustful Chatburn calls Luque to ask him if there has been any approach of the authorities with his lawyers. He was worried about the arrest of Marcelo Reyes López, former legal advisor to Petroecuador, in mid-October in Miami. "How strange it seems to me that a lord over there has been screwed … over here!"
The talks continued until December 4, without Luque or his mother Amanda Flores recovering their investments. In April 2018, the judicial process against Chatburn and Larrea started in Miami.
In the relationship of facts that accompanies the Chatburn confession agreement, it is explained that the intermediary collaborated with Luque and others to pay at least $ 2.97 million for the benefit of Petroecuador officials. Among them is Marcelo Reyes López, who Chatburn helped with two transfers totaling $ 1.32 million. Reyes pleaded guilty in the US
On his side, Ramiro Luque reached an initial deal with the New York prosecutors on May 30, 2017 and after other meetings, he signed in October of that same year a collaboration agreement in which he recognized his guilt for the crimes of money laundering and violations of the Law on anti-corruption practices abroad. According to that document, $ 2.14 million was seized and his sentence will reach a maximum of five years.
Luque maintained contact with at least six Petroecuador officials through a dozen email accounts. He also maintained bank accounts with Citibank, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, SunTrust, a trust in the Florida Community Bank and a brokerage account (to invest in the stock market) in Raymond James Financial.
In the case against Chatburn, prosecutors notified him that they would use 103 documents obtained from the Google search engine, as well as 21 financial records from: American Express, Americorp Bank, Balboa Bank and Trust, Banco Bolivariano de Panamá, Banco Pichincha, Capital Bank, Citibank , Credicorp Bank, DMS Bank, Helm Bank, Meinl Bank (that of construction company Odebrecht), Raymond James, Sabadell United Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.
Prosecutors also informed Chatburn's defense that they would use three articles of the Organic Comprehensive Criminal Code of Ecuador, related to bribery: 280, on Bribery; 285, Influence Traffic and 286, Offer to carry out influence traffic. They presented an English translation of all those articles.