Maduro diverts the flights of the Chavista public airline to the rescued Plus Ultra


Plus Ultra, the airline rescued by the Government with 53 million euros, has operated in December and January a total of twelve flights between Caracas and Madrid of Conviasa, the Venezuelan state company. The government of Nicholas Maduro authorized last October a series of flights between Caracas and Madrid, and gave special permission to Iberia, Air Europa and Plus Ultra to carry them out. In addition, Conviasa, dependent on the Ministry of Popular Power for Transportation, joined the route with a series of “special flights” – as advertised – Caracas-Madrid-Caracas, specifically on December 15, 20 and 23, 2021 and January 8, 15 and 19, 2022.

Maiquetía Simón Bolívar International Airport verified that the public airline had contracted the Spanish company Plus Ultra -controlled by Venezuelan shareholders- to operate the flights. ABC has verified in public air navigation databases that, indeed, those flights were carried out by Plus Ultra. He operated most of them with his Airbus A340 registration EC-MQM. In this way, the rescued airline, which already has a regular line between Caracas and Madrid, has been selected for these repatriation flights of the Chavista airline. The link between Plus Ultra and Conviasa goes back a long way. According to a battery of questions that the Popular Party sent to the Congress Table last March, the commercial relationship between the two companies would have begun in 2012.

The decision adopted by the Government of Spain, and specifically by SEPI (Spanish Society of Industrial Participations), to rescue Plus Ultra with 53 million euros was surrounded by controversy. The reason is that the Executive of Pedro Sánchez argued that it was a “strategic” company, despite the fact that it barely had two operational aircraft, operated only 0.03 percent of the flights to or from Spain and was on the verge of technical bankruptcy. In fact, according to Ciudadanos MEP Luis Garicano, Plus Ultra agreed to the rescue thanks to the fact that it irregularly recorded a “simulated loan” of 6.3 million euros that it received from the Panamanian company Panacorp Casa de Valores and that would be linked with members of the Plus Ultra board.

Shareholders

47% of the Spain-based company is controlled by Snip Aviation, which entered Plus Ultra’s share capital in 2017, a year before the company began operating the Caracas-Madrid route. Snip Aviation includes Rodolfo Reyes Rojas, El Arigie Harbie and Roselli Mieles, reports Antonio Ramirez Cerezo, who appear in two societies in Spain together with Camilo Ibrahim Issa. This would be, according to different published information, the link with the Chavista regime.

The Venezuelan opposition has singled out Issa for his friendship with Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodríguez. In contrast, the president of Plus Ultra, the Spaniard Fernando García Manso, denied in an interview with ABC having ties to Chavismo: «Camilo Ibrahim Issa does not hold any position in the corporate governance structure of Plus Ultra Líneas Aéreas and nor is it part of the shareholding of the airline, directly or indirectly. They are trying to link us to a certain political regime with the bizarre argument that two of our many shareholders share other businesses in Spain with the businessman. The executive asserted that they are “a Spanish company, absolutely apolitical,” and added: “It is clear the unfair and defamatory treatment to which Plus Ultra and some of its shareholders are being subjected because they are Venezuelans or Hispanic-Venezuelans.”

Conviasa was created on March 30, 2004 as the flag carrier of Venezuela through a decree signed by the then president of the Bolivarian Government, Hugo Chávez. In addition to the Venezuelan regime, Plus Ultra Líneas Aéreas has important economic interests with Cuba.

The investigation

The judicial investigation into the ransom is at a turning point after eleven months of investigations, since both the Prosecutor’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office have requested a free dismissal as they did not see evidence of a crime after the proceedings carried out, reports Isabel Vega. The head of the Court of Instruction number 15 of Madrid, Esperanza Collazos, opened a case in April 2021 for an alleged crime of embezzlement of public funds after a Clean Hands complaint against the vice president of SEPI, Bartolomé Lora, and the members of the council of administration that gave the go-ahead to the rescue of Plus Ultra. Throughout these months, during which the payment of 34 million euros of this aid was paralyzed and then reactivated, the judge has carried out various procedures to clarify whether the regulations were complied with.

The expert report commissioned by the company maintained that everything was in order to receive the aid, but the independent expert expressed doubts about its solvency situation prior to the pandemic, a condition that was essential to be able to access the credits. On January 18, the judge confronted the two experts in a face-to-face procedure and both confirmed the position they had previously put in writing. The Prosecutor’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office understand that any shadow of doubt in the adjudication has already been clarified and therefore request the dismissal of the case, but it will be the judge who marks the next step.


www.abc.es

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