Controversial fuel shipment

There is in fact a clause in the contract for the 150,000 barrels of gasoline destined for Aruba from Paria Fuel Trading Company that seeks to prevent the cargo from ending up in a sanctioned country, including Venezuela.

The Sunday Express can confirm this, having seen the contract.

In fact, it took two clauses and two assurances to satisfy State-owned Paria that a fuel sale would not end up in any sanctioned country, specifically Venezuela.

Paria’s spot sale of 150,000 barrels of gasoline has been under scrutiny after a Reuters report alleged the fuel ended up in Venezuela and that the request to do business came one day after Venezuela’s Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez and a team, which included the now president of PDVSA, Asdrubal Chavez, visited T&T on March 27, 2020.

Rodriguez, Chavez and PDVSA are under US sanctions.

When a request was made on March 28, 2020 by Jose Guillermo Ruperti, the 100 per cent shareholder of Switzerland-registered ES Euro Shipping SA to purchase gasoline, Paria requested a due diligence.

It was the first time Paria, a trading company and a subsidiary of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL), which imports fuel for local consumption and sales throughout the region, was doing business with Euro Shipping.

Paria’s general manager, Mushtaq Mohammed told Ruperti — listed as Euro Shipping’s operations manager — that the company required a list of documents. Euro Shipping supplied all the documents by April 7 with a credit report done by Graydon.

Neither Euro Shipping nor Ruperti are under US or any sanctions.

“The due diligence process revealed no red flags including any sanctions that would prevent Paria from conducting business with Euro Shipping, or any of its principals, who were citizens of Italy, France and Switzerland,” a company official told the Sunday Express yesterday.

Euro Shipping wanted to purchase 100,000 barrels of 95 Ron (Unleaded) and 50,000 barrels of 92 Ron (unleaded) destined for St Eustatius.

“St Eustatius is a common destination for Paria products and Petrotrin products in recent past. Products imported to Pointe-a-Pierre can also come from St Eustastius,” said the official .

By April 12, 2020, the oil tanker Aldan was approved to collect the gasoline.

Rumours of Venezuela 

One day after Aldan was approved to collect the fuel, Lydia Dindayal, Paria’s Product Trading Lead, wrote to Ruperti stating Paria’s fuel cannot go to Venezuela following Euro Shipping’s request for a nomination for inspection for its cargo from IC Global, a Venezuelan company.

The WhatsApp exchange is as follows:

Dindayal: “Jose...the inspector is saying that he got a nomination for inspection for this cargo from IC Global who seems to be a Venezuelan company! Please note that we cannot transact business with any Venezuelan companies and our barrels cannot go to Venezuela. Please clarify. Thanks.”

Jose Ruperti: “Good morning Lydia. There is some confusion. IC Global is a subsidiary of sgs. We only asked for a recommendation of an inspector. The bbls (barrels) are not destined to Venezuela.”

By April 15, Paria was paid for its gasoline in US currency.

The Sunday Express was told no flags were raised by the US Treasury Department on the sale.

Pre-payment was a condition for the sale.

Four days later, a final contract was issued and loading of the gasoline commenced.

The vessel departed on April 21 destined for St Eustatius.

The next day, Ruperti via e-mail at 1.42 p.m., requested that the Bill of Lading be changed to Aruba as the port of destination.

Change of destination 

Dindayal responded on April 23 at 2.45 a.m. alerting him to a news report from Venezuela that the fuel was destined for Venezuela.

“Your initial documentation instructions stated ‘St Eustatius’ and our contract also stated that the destination for this cargo is ‘St Eustatius’. Now you have asked for the destination to be changed to Aruba. Please reconfirm that the cargo is going to Aruba and advise the ultimate/final destination of this product. If you can provide the discharge documents as you suggested earlier today, that would be greatly appreciated.

“Additionally, in our message on 2020 April 14 & 15, you advised that the products were not destined for Venezuela. If these volumes end up in Venezuela, it is a major issue for us, as it puts our current contract with our supplier at risk given that Venezuela is a sanctioned country. This can also impact our ability to access future supplies for our country. Please provide some clarifications on what is happening with this cargo and the final destination of the cargo urgently.”

At 8.22 a.m., Ruperti responded to “the allegations that our cargo is destined for Venezuela and the rumours that have surrounded this transaction”.

He included a copy of the sales contract with the local buyer in Aruba with the price redacted.

“You can find in the contract a very strict sanctions clause which does not allow our buyer to sell this cargo to Venezuela or any sanctioned country. I will send you as well for additional comfort for you and your team, the unloading documents from Aruba as promised.

“In addition, I can officially confirm to you that ES Euro Shipping SA has all the licences and authorisations up to date to trade fuel in the Caribbean region form the Department of Treasury of the United States (The Office of Foreign Asset Control),” he said.

The Bill of Lading was amended to Aruba.

With regard to the change of destination, the official said: “It is not unusual that a change of destination would arise, even after a vessel departs. The change in destination was communicated to the relevant port authorities before departure, but not to Paria. Once Paria became aware of the change in destination to Aruba, the parties amended the contractual documentation to suit.”

On April 26, Reuters reported that Venezuela had received a 150,000-barrel shipment of gasoline from a company owned by shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti.

“The shipment from Ruperti’s company, Maroil Trading, arrived ... aboard the Aldan tanker to the port at central Venezuela’s El Palito oil refinery, said two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” the report said.

The Two Clauses

Paria

There are two applicable clauses in Paria’s contract with Euro Shipping.

1. Under “Destinations”, it states: No cargo shall be re-sold, stored, transferred or traded into any sanction countries including but not limited to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.

2. Under “Trade Sanctions”, it states: Each party acknowledges and understands that the performance of its obligations arising out of the agreement shall be in compliance with any United Nations Resolutions and EU Laws and any other treaties, conventions, laws and regulations which (1) are applicable to; and (2)relate to foreign trade controls, export controls, embargoes or international boycott of any type (applying, without limitation, to the financing, payment, insurance, transportation, delivery or storage of the oil) hereinafter referred to as the “Trade Sanctions’”.

EuroShipping

In EuroShipping’s clause with its buyer in Aruba, the Sanctions Clause stated: Buyers furthermore warrant at the time of entering into this sales contract and to the best of their knowledge that the cargo supplied to the vessel does not originate from, whether directly or indirectly and that delivery of the cargo will not take place to any party that directly or indirectly is any person/entity listed on the US Office of Foreign Assets’s Control List of Specially Designated Nationals and blocked persons or any similar lists of sanctioned or restricted parties as part of any EU sanctions program (including without limitation in any relevant EU regulation) or any UN Sanctions Program which relates to Foreign Trade Controls, Export Control or embargoes, including or not limited to any sanctions programme involving Iran and/or Syria and/or Crimea.

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