Updated: Jan 20
Hopelessness has gripped iBank U.S. customers, especially small and medium-sized savers, who entrusted their assets to the bank.
by Maibort Petit
Freedom Voice Reporting
The claim of the assets of a small saver of the IBank Corporation, correspondent of the Activo International Bank of Puerto Rico, intervened by the financial authorities of the United States, gives an account of the ordeal experienced by those who entrusted their savings to an entity belonging to the Active Group.
Hopelessness has gripped iBank U.S. customers, especially small and medium-sized savers, who entrusted their assets to the bank and now feel in an absolute situation of helplessness as they cannot dispose of the money they gave to that institution related to the Active Group belonging to the Venezuelan banker José Antonio Oliveros Febres.
Such is the case of Jaime J. Gallardo, a small merchant who owns Hidráulica Tamanaco S.A., a family business founded in 1973 based in Caracas, which sells domestic and industrial water pumping equipment.
Since the beginning of 2020, Gallardo has been fighting with the iBank – an email exchange with the iBank customer service in our hands proves it – in order to reimburse him for USD36,000, without his diligences having had any success.
Gallardo wonders if I-Bank U.S. and its savers are a victim of Grupo Activo or if they are accomplices, without his question finding an answer.
The situation of Jaime Gallardo is replicated in hundreds of people, natural and legal, many of whom have also expressed their concern to Venezuela Política, confident that the denunciation of their cases will serve as a mechanism of pressure on the corresponding authorities in order to have their savings and investments restored. We will focus on this installment to Gallardo's case.
As we mentioned, Gallardo is the legal representative of the Venezuelan company, Hidráulica Tamanaco S.A.
This firm has as its Tax Information Registry Number (RIF) the J 000831947. It is domiciled in Guaicaipuro Street, Quinta Regina, Number 20, Urbanization El Rosal, Chacao, Miranda state.
IBank USA's debt to Gallardo's company is currently US$36,000.00, approx. of funds that the company received via transfer from the International Committee of the Red Cross for the rehabilitation work of 06 water wells located in 06 hospitals in Caracas in 2019.
On December 31, 2021, the deadline for Banco I-Bank USA to make the payment corresponding to that year, as ordered by the Office of Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico, expired without such cancellation having occurred.
A bit of history
It should be noted that the Activo International Bank of Puerto Rico is in the process of restructuring since February 10, 2020, when the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico issued an Emergency Consent Order by which Activo International Bank. The banking authority ordered that in the face of such restructuring was Fortunato Benacerraf — Venezuelan banker, owner of 100% Bank in Venezuela — who is one of the main creditors of the intervened entity.
This is reported by a note from Cuentas Claras Digital (CCD), which indicates that, apart from Benacerraf, other Venezuelan bankers – Arístides Maza (Banco Caroní) and Michel Goguikian (Bancrecer), among others – were victims of Oliveros Febres and were left with funds trapped in Activo International Bank. Estimates place the bank's debt with its customers and creditors at a figure of more than USD 40 million.
The commissioner granted Benacerraf a period of 30 days from the date of the Consent Order to present the plan for the restructuring of the financial institution, which should include the replacement of the board of directors and administration, as well as compliance with the changes ordered by the Puerto Rican financial authority.
Meanwhile while this is happening and the objectives of the intervention achieved, depositors will not be able to withdraw their money nor could the bank pay the creditors.
Such types of transactions would only proceed if Commissioner George Joyner authorized it in writing.
A restriction that accounts for the emails exchanged between Jaime Gallardo and the customer service of the iBank. One of them dated March 9, 2021, with a copy to Robert Acosta and Yzabell Silva, where he is informed that the consent order of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico provides that, "in the interest of protecting the rights of all depositors of the Bank, the Order indicates that from its effective date and until May 10, 2020 (or any other date that determined by the Commissioner), the Bank shall suspend all payments (...)".
In this regard, iBank U.S. said that it would maintain contact with the correspondent bank, a permanent, namely the Activo International Bank, in order to "find the best solution for our customers" implementing "in the best possible time, favorable solutions for our depositors".
A similar notice appears before the website of TBB International Bank
Inside the page it is explained that, according to the provisions of "Law number 36 of July 28, 1989, abandoned or unclaimed funds are amounts of money and other liquid goods that have not been claimed by their legitimate owners.
Article 2 of Law number 36, defines as 'owners' those people with the right to claim the money, either by being the original owner, beneficiary or heir of such assets. The 'person' is defined as any natural or legal person."
It adds that the TBB International Bank, because international banking entities are exempt from the requirement to publish the notice in a newspaper of general circulation imposed by law, the entity, on its website2, publishes the list of "natural and legal persons entitled to claim the amounts corresponding to accounts that have been kept inactive or in a sleeping state for a period of five years or more since their last transaction or written communication in possession and interest of such amount whose aggregate value is one hundred dollars (...)".
It indicates that on or before December 10 of each year, TBB will transfer to the Secretary of The Treasury of Puerto Rico, the funds that were not claimed after publishing the aforementioned notice. Therefore, as of that date, complaints must be addressed to the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico. While data on unclaimed amounts can be obtained at the link: http://www.ocif.pr.gov/DocumentosLegales/Pages/default.aspx.
The page states that the amounts of money and unclaimed liquid assets to TBB International Bank will be transferred to the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF), who must be the recipient of any claim as of November 30, 2021.
Jaime Gallardo, reports that by virtue of how unsuccessful his claims have been, he would denounce the case on the website of the Federal Reserve of the United States, while urging all the affected people to form a common front to carry out a joint action against the bank.
Old rumors, uncertain situation
The situation of the banks of José Antonio Oliveros Febres has been denounced in recent years, in fact, Banco Activo in Venezuela has been intervened since January 30, 2019 by order of the Tenth Court of First Instance in the Civil of Caracas, as referred to in the aforementioned note of the CCD, which specified that said court issued a precautionary measure that prohibits the sale or transfer of the shares of the aforementioned Oliveros Febres. A depositary was appointed who assumed the rights and obligations of the majority shareholder and chairman of the entity.
These actions are the result of a lawsuit filed by Guillermo Barroso and Edgar Raúl Leoni against José Oliveros Febres and his mother, Zonia Coromoto Oliveros Mora, director of the bank, for moral damages and losses.
Even before this lawsuit took place, it was insistently assured that not only Banco Activo in Caracas was in a compromised situation, but also the rest of the entities that make up Grupo Activo, namely Activo International Bank Inc. of Puerto Rico and Banco Múltiple Activo Dominicana, of the Dominican Republic.
CCD emphasizes that Activo International Bank of Puerto Rico is the main shareholder of Banco Múltiple Activo Dominicana, so the orderly restructuring of the former keeps the negotiations of the latter in uncertain fate.
Lawsuits and accusations against Oliveros Febres-Cordero
Venezuela Política had already warned of this situation in March 2020 when it made public a lawsuit for breach of contract was filed by Cainvest Bank & Trust Ltd. against Activo International Bank Inc. That action was due to the fact that the defendant had not responded to the requests for transfer of funds ordered by the plaintiff. Cainvest claimed the refund of USD 3,052,018.26 deposited in his account with the aforementioned entity.
We would refer at that time that against José Antonio Oliveros Febres-Cordero fell a rain of accusations and demands for the commission of alleged irregularities in the management of his banking institutions. Illegal appropriation of funds, violation of fiduciary rights, fraud, theft, qualified misappropriation and corruption, are the accusations that, at that time, and were made to the Venezuelan banker in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Curacao.
In Venezuela, to the demands indicated above, other civil and criminal procedures would be added, as well as investigations by the Attorney General's Office for qualified appropriation, fraud, corruption, damages, association to commit a crime, among other charges.
We also referred to the fact that José Antonio Oliveros Febres was linked to Baldo Sansó, autonomous administrator of PDVSA and brother-in-law of Rafael Ramírez. He was also linked to Matthias Krull, convicted of money laundering in the United States.
The estimates of the experts place at USD40 million the gap in the finances of the Active Group, which began to become notorious in 2019 as a result of the shortage of dollars that occurred in Venezuela as a result of the financial and economic crisis that the country suffers.
The tragedy of Gallardo
But the situation of the savers of iBank U.S. or the rest of the depositors of the correspondent bank in Puerto Rico, Activo International Bank, did not improve over time as announced in the email sent to Jaime Gallardo.
In May 2020, another message from Mariángeles Combes on behalf of the entity informed Hidráulica Tamanaco SA that the requested transfer of funds would occur with a series of restrictions.
Combes reported that Activo International Bank customers with a balance greater than USD 25,000, will be governed in 2020 with 10 percent, in 2021 by 15 percent, in 2022 by 20 percent, in 2023 by 25 percent and in 2024 by 30 percent. That is, a "corralito" was applied to depositors' withdrawals of funds.
Therefore, Jaime Gallardo in the recently ended 2021, could only dispose of 10 percent of his balance in the correspondent bank.
To this was added the restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the quarantine announced by the government of Puerto Rico.
Far from improving the situation worsened, because on September 17 Gallardo was informed that when the International Bank Asset had entered into restructuring, the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico returned all the transfers that were in transit.
Two months later, on November 16, 2020, Jaime Gallardo only received USD4,000 of his assets in the Activo International Bank, according to an email in our possession sent by the customer service of i-Bank U.S.
The USD 4,000 arrived on November 19, 2020.
Faced with Jaime Gallardo's claim to the iBank for the low amount of the refund, the response was not long in coming. Thus, on December 1, 2020, they clarified that
"10% refers to the balance of our iBank account with the correspondent, it does not refer to your particular account. Accordingly, we have tried to be equitable and prorate that availability of 10% of our account, among all transfers from our customers that were pending shipment."
They announced the next payment for the first quarter of 2021.
On March 26, 2021, they reported that the transfer was in the process of execution.
Jaime Gallardo wanted to know in December 2021, how the next payments would occur.
And the answer came the next day when they indicated that it would be in January 2022 when, after registering the transfer on the institution's website, Gallardo would receive 20 percent of his account balance.
Consequently, Jaime Gallardo sent i-Bank U.S. on January 3, 2022, an email informing them that he had already made the transfer request equivalent to 20 percent of his available balance in the account.
Jaime Gallardo waits for his money, while his questions remain unanswered.
About the Author
Maibort Petit is a Venezuelan writer, researcher and political scientist specialized in Transnational Organized Crime. Based in New York, she works for various Hispanic media outlets and as a consultant for various firms in New York and Washington DC.
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