The trip was part of an intense behind-the-scenes scrimmage for Venezuela’s wealth and resources as it grapples with political gridlock
(Bloomberg) — When Erik Prince, a major Trump donor and private security mogul, traveled to Caracas in November for secret talks with Venezuela’s vice president, he was not, it turns out, the central figure orchestrating the meetings.
That person was a controversial British deal-maker by the name of Ian Hannam, according to people familiar with the situation. Hannam, a former JPMorgan banker, arranged the trip as part of his yearlong scouting effort for possible gold investments in the crisis-battered nation, the people said. Prince’s meeting with Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has been reported; Hannam’s role hasn’t.
The discussion of mining ventures with Rodriguez raises fresh questions about whether Prince, a Michigan native and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, violated U.S. law against doing business with sanctioned officials. Hannam is British and not subject to the same restrictions.
The trip is part of an intense behind-the-scenes scrimmage for Venezuela’s wealth and resources as it grapples with political gridlock, international sanctions and a humanitarian crisis. Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who’s recognized as interim head of state by the U.S. and more than 50 countries, is wrestling for control of the legislature with a lawmaker backed by President Nicolas Maduro and Russia.
The plan for the November bid was to see if Prince could help with security in the dangerous gold mining regions of Venezuela where Hannam sought business, one of the people said.