Washington - Recordings from one of the most important ongoing investigations in Spain mention former Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and his friend and government´s main DC lobbyist Manuel Ortiz.
According to recordings from digital outlet VozPopuli, one of Former Spanish Police Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo collaborators had conversations with Ortiz and a brother of Rosselló Nevares, as part of the failed effort to have a Chinese investment group to buy up part of the public debt and invest in infrastructure in Puerto Rico.
In June 2017, Politico revealed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, “had previously suggested he’d be able to win approval for any resulting deal between the China Development Fund and Puerto Rico.”
It was then revealed that the China Development Fund would invest about $ 30 billion in Puerto Rico´s public debt and infrastructure. Rosselló Nevares admitted contacts with the Chinese fund in 2017, however, the deal never happened.
Manafort was investigated by Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the case of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Last March, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison for bank and fiscal fraud, not related to Russian interference.
However, amid investigations into Villarejo, including at least 13 cases, VozPopuli released new recordings of talks between the former police officer and his collaborators, attorney Enrique Maestre Cavanna and Adrián de la Joya, about helping the Chinese fund to invest in the island – in exchange for some commission –.
VozPopuli released these recordings this weekend, they were made Villarejo in January 2017 at a restaurant in Madrid, there, Maestre Cavanna linked Ortiz – who was Rosselló Nevares' top lobbyist in Washington and a friend of the Rosselló family – to talks about China’s interest in investing in the island. "Manny left on Sunday to see the governor again," he said.
Maestre Cavanna and De la Joya were two of five people arrested last May by the Spanish Police, suspected of being involved in payoffs for $ 11.1 million to Villarejo to help stop the extradition to Guatemala of shipping businessman Ángel Pérez Maura, accused in the Central American country of bribing the former president and vice president of Guatemala.
According to VozPopuli, former Guatemalan ambassador in the United States Julio Ligorria contacted Ortiz for a meeting in Washington on the Pérez Maura case and said they both met with Villarejo “in Madrid months later,” between August and September 2016. “It (the meeting) was at the Picasso Tower, in Don Villarejo´s offices,” the former ambassador said.
In another part of the recording, Maestre Cavanna tells Villarejo and De la Joya that he had dinner in Washington with the governor's brother and his wife, with whom he had already met on two other occasions, to talk about businesses with the Chinese fund.
Maestre Cavanna said that after leaving the restaurant, Rosselló's brother, whose name he doesn’t identify, insinuated that they could count on them. “He grabbed me and said ‘I don't have to say you anything, do I? You know that we are here if anything happens. You know that we know how to do things without anyone knowing,” Maestre Cavanna said.
As a private liaison, Héctor Hoyos, a businessman, was part of the Spanish group´s conversations about the Chinese fund´s interest in investing in the island.
Villarejo has been in provisional detention since November 2017. His corruption scheme includes not only his position as a police officer and commissioner. Villarejo is also accused of spying on journalists, businessmen, and politicians on behalf of the then-president of the Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Bank (BBVA), Francisco González, who had to resign after the payoffs came to light.
Ortiz is President of the VantageKnight lobbying company, which had contracts of up to $ 1.6 million with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Pridco).
Maestre Cavanna also referred to Ortiz’s lobbying for Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
Although he avoided mentioning Maestre Cavanna in his statement, Ortiz said yesterday on Twitter that "he has never (had) any professional or personal ties with Manafort or Villarejo." "Any insinuation about the existence of a business or negotiations between them and me is false or malicious," Ortiz said.
At a time when New Progressive Party (PNP) Representative José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez requested investigations into the fiscal benefits VantageKnight receives through Law 20, Pridco Director and Secretary of the Department of Economic Development Manuel Laboy said a few days ago that his office has not renewed the contract with the company.
Meléndez has also asked the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an investigation into VantageKnight fiscal situation, which has had its main operations in Washington, but since 2018 also claims to have a subsidiary in Puerto Rico. In his statement, lobbyist Ortiz said there has been an organized "a discrediting campaign against me with unspeakable purposes."