Criminal investigation into disappearance of diesel from HSS Discovery

WILLEMSTAD - Rivelino Marcano, one of the interested parties that had had the ferry ‘HSS Discovery’ sail late November last year from La Guaira (Venezuela) with 360,000 liters of diesel oil in nine ballast tanks, was arrested last Thursday, after customs had broken the seals of the tanks.

Director of Customs, Julian Lopez Ramirez states diesel is missing from the tanks although it’s not clear how much is missing.Marcano is detained on remand for eight days. A decision whether further detention is necessary in the interest of the investigation will be taken after those eight days. The ferry was brought to Curaçao by Marcano together with his friend Ewart Walle. The duo indicated the ferry would undergo repairs on Curaçao and subsequently, with the permission of owner Albamar Shipping Company SA Panama, attract investors to buy the ferry.

The two also indicated early December to run the ferry on the Curaçao-La Guaira route. They also stated that the large quantity of diesel on board was meant for own use to save costs during the repair period, which repairs would be considered an investment by Walle’s company Curaçao Industrial Diving. The company specializes in underwater repairs on ships and at the time Walle estimated the repair costs of the ferry’s jets during a three-month period at 6 million guilders.

On November 25th, the ferry entered Curaçao without initially following the standard clearing procedure. Although the ferry had supposedly announced their arrival several months before, the documents were not in order and the ship arrived ad hoc. For these reasons, the ship was subjected to a thorough inspection by Customs, Coastguard and police and with the help of dogs had inspected the entire ship. The nine ballast tanks on board with diesel, as provision of the ship, were sealed and the HSS Discovery was kept under surveillance 24 hours a day.

Regular inspections were performed the past months, according to Lopez Ramirez. “After initially stating that the diesel was for own use, Mr. Marcano attempted to import the diesel oil on November 30th. The declaration to import the diesel oil was rejected because he had no manifest for such,” said Lopez Ramirez. Marcano had then instituted legal proceedings in February against the following persons and entities: the Inspector of import duties and excise, the director of Customs, the Minister of Finance and the country Curaçao.

From the verdict of February 17th it appears Marcano confirmed he didn’t have the necessary manifest. From the departure document it also appeared that the ferry had left La Guaira ‘without cargo’. According to the explanation of the verdict, in the legal proceedings Marcano claimed “the court to order the defendants to allow import and unloading of the remaining cargo of diesel oil and in this case deliver such to third parties”. The judge declared Marcano’s claims against the Inspector of import duties and excise, the director of Customs and the Minister of Finance inadmissible. In the case of the country Curaçao, the claims were dismissed. Marcano had to pay the legal costs amounting to 1000 guilders.

“Initially, the financial damage could have been worse as regards selling the diesel considering import duties and sales taxes amounting to 11.5 percent had not been paid. However, the serious matter of tampering with the seals had led to the criminal investigation, which investigation will have to show what had happened with the diesel”, said director of Customs Lopez Ramirez. According to insiders, independently of the criminal investigation, two companies, supposedly Albamar Shipping Company SA Panama and a local company had placed an attachment on the ferry.

It is not clear whether Albamar is officially still the owner of the ferry because in the past Marcano stated before the Amigoe that he had bought the HSS Discovery. Furthermore, there’s the claim for the ferry not having paid the harbor dues for over three months at Caracas Bay. The Aruban Company Suroil NV had taken Marcano and his company Phoenix Trading to court in a civil procedure because Marcano had sold a ship to a third party without permission.

Trade in fuel

In a Spanish report on patriciapoleo.com (the domain name of this website expired on March 17th) that was placed under the link http://patriciapoleo.com/promocion-de-diosdado-y-nuevo-jefe-de-la-dgim-consolidan-la-cubanizacion-del-estado-venezolano.html, Marcano was linked to ‘mysterious trade in fuel’, whereby the link was made to a vessel sailing under the Curaçao flag. This vessel, the ‘White Tip’ (a tender barge) was seen regularly in La Guaira loading large quantities of diesel before sailing to Curaçao.

On the website of Curaçao Industrial Diving, Walle’s company, the White Tip is shown as one of the company’s vessels. According to unconfirmed reports, on that same vessel on the day the HSS Discovery left La Guaria, the Venezuelan harbor inspection discovered a large quantity of diesel in the ballast tanks, whereupon some of this diesel, according to reports, was transferred to the ferry.

(Source: Amigoe)

19 March 2012

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