Updated to include Right of Reply.
A Colombian national slapped with sanctions in the UK for corruption and arrested for drug trafficking in Latin America owns a company in Malta that he was able to set up under a false name, despite numerous, easily accessible online reports of his activities.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced further sanctions on various individuals under the UK’s Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime.
One of these individuals is Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas, a Colombian national engaged in “serious corruption in Venezuela.” The UK Foreign Office reports that he and an associate, Alex Nain Saab Moran, participated in two Venezuelan public programmes: the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP) and the Great housing Scheme (GMV).
It’s reported that in both cases, the contracts were granted improperly as they appeared to be for the benefit of Saab Moran and Pulido Vargas.
In the CLAP programme, Pulido Vargas and Saab Moran provided food and other supplies at “highly inflated prices,” according to the British government.
As for the GMV project, Pulido Vargas and Saab Moran only delivered a fraction of the products they were contracted to provide. The Brittish government said they misappropriated the rest of the money.
In addition to this, in 2000, while using the name German Enrique Rubio Salas, he was arrested for drug trafficking in Colombia.
He was apprehended alongside 16 other people following a series of raids in Colombia, Venezuela, and the US. The operation dismantled two drug distribution networks under the ‘Bogota Cartel,’ one for heroin and one for cocaine.
Police accused them of trafficking two tonnes of cocaine and 17 kilos of heroin to the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain in just one year. Rubio Salas, aka Pulido Vargas, was suspected of coordinating it and was convicted.
Police also accused him of operating with five false identifications. It’s reported that Rubio Salas is his legal identity and that Pulido Vargas is false.
One of the identity cards he was found using belonged to an individual who died in Miami in 2005. It’s reported that he adopted the Pudilo Vargas identity to conceal his past in international drug trafficking.
Both Saab Moran and Pulido Vargas/Rubio Salas are under investigation in the US for money laundering. It’s believed that some of the $685 million potentially misappropriated from Venezuela has found its way into the US.
Authorities have indicted him for helping to organise a complex network of shell companies to obtain profits from his dealings in Venezuela.
Surprisingly, none of this information, which is readily available online, prevented him from opening two companies in Malta, one of which is still active.
FGDC Malta Holdings Ltd was incorporated on 23 October 2012 under the fake name of Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas. It was struck off on 16 February 2021 and is listed as defunct. A former shareholder of the company was Gordon Mifsud, who is the CEO of International Management Services, which provides corporate structuring for “a number of international clients,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
Then, on 7 February 2013, he incorporated Fondo Global Holding Ltd, also under his fake name. In 2017, David Zahra and Associates Advocates withdrew consent for the company to use their registered address and transferred all shares to Pulido Vargas/Rubio Salas.
The company has not filed any annual returns since March 2016, yet remains active.
Under Maltese law, an agent that incorporates a company on behalf of an individual is considered a ‘subject person’. This means they are required to carry out due diligence and Know Your Client processes on each customer before establishing a business relationship with them.
Yet Pulido Vargas/ Rubio Salas was able to set up companies in Malta using a name that yields significant amounts of bad press online – and he did so using a documented false ID.
Right of Reply received from Gordon Mifsud
“At the outset, International Management Services Limited would like to clarify that FGDC Malta Holdings Ltd or its beneficial owners were never a client of and were never serviced by International Management Services Limited. The company was formed and serviced by another service provider. None of the persons mentioned in this article were ever clients of or had any connection to International Management Services Limited.
Due to Maltese requirements at the time (which did not allow single member companies) Gordon Mifsud was engaged to hold 1 share and held only 1 B share with no rights. Accordingly, such share did not grant any voting rights or rights to receive dividends and distributions on winding up. Such share was held in his personal capacity.
At the time of incorporation, there was no adverse publicly available information. Customer due diligence was carried out in accordance with law and best practices. Subsequently, during the period April 2014-June 2014 as part of an ongoing compliance review adverse information was identified and as a result it was immediately decided to divest the share and terminate all connections, prior to the company becoming operational or transactions taking place. Despite all efforts to divest of the said 1B Share since 2014, Maltese law does not provide for the possibility for a person to unilaterally divest of a share.
In 2014 all necessary steps were taken in accordance with Maltese law, which also imposes a duty of confidentiality. It is assured that full cooperation was given to the relevant authorities.”