Almost a year has passed since authorities in Cape Verde arrested Alex Nain Saab Moran, an alleged financial fixer and deal maker for the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Saab’s arrest and potential extradition to the U.S. will likely curtail his direct role in any future money laundering and sanctions evasion schemes on behalf of the regime. However, the challenge for U.S. authorities now will be to identify individuals likely to assume his role.
One individual seen as likely to step in and assist the Maduro government with its ongoing relationship with Iran, is dual Lebanese-Venezuelan citizen Majed Khalil Majzoub, according to a 2020 report published by the Atlantic Council.
Beyond potentially serving as the link between the Venezuelan and Iranian governments, Majed and his brother Khaled’s massive international corporate network — as evidenced by official public records — may serve as an ideal vehicle to move money and facilitate broader sanctions evasion schemes on behalf of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his cronies.
Maduro’s financial fixer arrested in Cape Verde
In June 2020, authorities in Cape Verde operating on an Interpol red notice arrested Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who U.S. authorities accuse of serving as a financial fixer for the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
U.S. Treasury Department sanctions and several journalistic investigations have shed light on Saab’s machinations as a fixer for the Maduro regime. These have included devising various schemes to evade U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil, his alleged involvement in corruption and money laundering operations related to a government-run food program, and connections to the country’s gold mining sector, among others.
Saab was also purportedly key in connecting the regime to other bad actors and pariah states, namely Iran.
Privileged government contractors
Like Alex Saab, the Khalil brothers’ connection to the highest echelons of the Venezuelan government, especially under the administration of former President Hugo Chavez, runs deep.
Throughout the mid 2000s, companies owned and/or controlled by the Khalil brothers were awarded lucrative government contracts in multiple different sectors. Since at least 2005, Indigo Energy International, C.A. — a Venezuelan energy company linked to the Khalil brothers — has been awarded several energy-related contracts from Venezuelan government entities, including the construction of generators for thermoelectric plants, according to the Venezuelan Contractors Registry (RNC).
Additionally, in 2016, the company formed a consortium with Isiven C.A. — another Venezuelan energy company not connected to the Khalil brothers — and was awarded three contracts from the Bolivian state-owned energy company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) to enhance the storage capacity of combustibles. The contracts were awarded during the administration of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close ally of the Chavez and later Maduro administration.
As of at least June 2020, Indigo Energy International, C.A. was owned 100 percent by Indigo Energy Corporation, SL, a Spanish company which, in turn, is owned 100 percent by Barbados-based Indigo Energy Holding Inc. Khaled Khalil was listed as the director of Indigo Energy Holding, Inc. when the company was incorporated in September 2015, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
To be sure, Indigo Energy International is not the only company connected to the Khalil brothers that has been awarded lucrative contracts by the Venezuelan government during both the Chavez and Maduro administrations. Another Khalil-linked technology company — Grupo Hardwell Technologies C.A. — has also been awarded numerous contracts by various government entities over the years, including contracts to provide antivirus and firewall security systems at the Simon Bolivar International Airport, equipment for automatic data processing for Venezuela’s Department of Defense, and information technology equipment for Venezuela’s High Command of the Navy (Comandancia General de la Armada).
Grupo Hardwell Technologies has also been awarded several contracts in recent years by other companies ultimately owned and/or or controlled by the Khalil brothers, mainly for “administrative services.”
A corporate network spanning four continents
Since their rise as prominent regime-connected businessmen in the early 2000s, Majed and Khaled Khalil have created a massive corporate network that spans the globe. Should one or both brothers assume Alex Saab’s alleged role as fixers for the Maduro government, identifying their international corporate network may provide leads as to where or how the brothers could use their international corporate presence to hide illicit funds or facilitate sanctions evasion schemes on behalf of regime insiders.
The two brothers either were previously or are currently connected to over 45 companies, spanning South and North America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, according to official corporate records from various jurisdictions. While many of these corporate connections have long been known, others, such as the brothers’ corporate footprint in Lebanon, have largely flown under the radar.
Corporate records show the brothers operate in a plethora of different industries, including energy, technology, tourism, real estate investment, fishing and construction, among others.
Holdings in the Middle East
Beyond Latin America and Europe, the brothers have also invested in corporate assets in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In Lebanon, the brothers appear as business associates of members of another prominent Lebanese-Venezuelan family that currently serve as board members of a major Venezuelan private bank.
Majed and Khaled are currently listed together as shareholders and board members of three Lebanon-based companies: Airport Mall SAL, Airport Mall Holding SAL and Med Rim SAL, according to the Commercial Registry of Lebanon’s Ministry of Justice.
Khaled is also listed as a shareholder of two additional companies — Spring Company SAL and Misky Farms SARL.
Listed along with Majed and Khaled on Airport Mall and Airport Mall Holding, are dual Lebanese-Venezuelan citizens Edmundo Jorge Kabchi Zakia and his father Edmundo Jreige Kabchi Murgus. The Kabchis are prominent businessmen with deep ties to Venezuela’s banking industry, as well as professional soccer.
Edmundo Kabchi Murgus is currently listed as the vice president of the board of directors of Banco Caroní C.A. Banco Universal, a large Venezuelan private bank, while his son Edmundo Kabchi Zakia is listed as an alternate vice president (suplente).
The Kabchi family themselves own and/or control a number of corporate assets within Lebanon and elsewhere.
Neither the Khalil brothers nor Edmundo Kabchi Zakia or Edmundo Kabchi Murgus have been charged with any crimes in the U.S.
Khaled Khalil also holds a 100 percent interest in a tuna production facility in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, according to third party corporate data. Beyond Saudia Arabia, the brothers are shareholders of fishing companies in Venezuela and Colombia — Productos Piscicolas Propisca S.A. (Venezuela) and Atunes y Enlatados del Caribe S.A. (Colombia).
Finally, Majed is the chairman of the board of directors of Innova International Trading Petrol Madencilik Ve Turizm Anonim Sirketi, a company based in Turkey.