Chavez drafted banker in fraud case to fix Cuba's economy

El Nuevo HeraldJanuary 3, 2010 

A multimillionaire Venezuelan businessman, currently jailed in Caracas on bank fraud charges, had been sent to Cuba by President Hugo Chavez to help the country recover from its economic slump and also to spur economic growth on the island after Fidel Castro dies, according to former employees.

In an initial show of his new responsibility, looking for a personal benefit from future business in Cuba, Ricardo Fernández Barruecos gave the Cuban government a gift of 28 BMW automobiles, his former security consultant Luis Castro said in a sworn statement.

Castro told El Nuevo Herald that Fernández, envisioning brilliant prospects for his business in Cuba, also earned the support of Raúl Castro to open up the island's economy after the death of his brother Fidel.

Another former employee of Fernández's organization told El Nuevo Herald that Fernández made several visits to Cuba by private jet and met with then-Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque.

But the close relationship between Fernández and Chávez soon ended.

Venezuelan regulatory agencies in November seized Fernández's banks, companies and properties, accusing him of massive fraud related to his recent acquisition of four banks.

The scuttled Cuba mission is just one of many aspects of Fernández's life that have recently emerged in the wake of the fraud charges.

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