Netflix has just released its latest major Spanish production, Jaguar, a series about a Holocaust survivor who, in the 1960s, seeks out Nazis to make them pay for their crimes. The series was produced in an alliance with the renowned eyewear company, Hawkers, which was boosted with money from corruption in Venezuela during the regimes of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
The series premiered on September 22 and the controversy began after Hawkers announced its alliance with the Netflix production. The eyewear company is owned by Alejandro Betancourt, a Venezuelan national, who lives in Spain and is accused of corruption in his country.
From contracts with chavismo to success in Spain
Alejandro Betancourt, now president of Hawkers, arrived at the company after dethroning the co-founder and CEO, Alejandro Moreno. Betancourt took control of the company after injecting €50 million in 2016. At that time, Betancourt became Hawkers’ main shareholder.
Betancourt’s fortune, however, comes from juicy and fraudulent contracts with the Chavista regime. It is a swindle of the Venezuelan state. Before arriving in Spain, the Venezuelan was the owner, together with his cousin Pedro Trebbau López, of the company Derwick Associates. With Derwick, in 2009, when Venezuela was already in a spiral of corruption and economic crisis, Betancourt won 11 contracts with the Chavista regime. The State paid Derwick, at a high price, for the construction of thermoelectric plants (some of which, in fact, were never built). Betancourt had contracts with Corpoelec (the state-owned corporation in charge of the electricity sector throughout the country, which today is responsible for the devastation of the system and the service); with the state-owned oil company PDVSA (also collapsed) and a contract with the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG).
For the corruption, Derwick and Alejandro Betancourt were sued and charged. One of those who took up the banner against the company was former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich. Also, human rights advocate and president of the Human Rights Foundation Thor Halvorssen who claimed that Betancourt had bribed Chavista and drug trafficker Diosdado Cabello with $50 million.
Halvorssen has said that Derwick Associates “is run by a group of inexperienced businessmen who got rich in exchange for selling scrap metal at overpriced prices.”
Thanks to the Venezuela scam, Betancourt became a multimillionaire. Once he had built his fortune, the next step was to launder it and venture into a business that, at least, looked legal. From Caracas, he moved to Madrid.
A start-up did turn down illicit money
Right after injecting €50 million into Hawkers, Betancourt tried to take over Cabify, the Spanish transportation network business. At the time, the start-up rejected the Venezuelan’s money, precisely because of its origins in the Venezuelan embezzlement. According to journalist David Placer, Cabify “has an alarm system to detect the entry of suspicious money and that can splash it.”
“The young Venezuelan, who now presides Hawkers, was willing to inject about 30 million euros. But in the company suspicions were raised about the origin of the funds,” reads the Economía Digital media.
But it didn’t matter that Cabify had rejected Alejandro Betancourt’s money. The Venezuelan had already gotten his hands on Hawkers and that was enough to boost the brand, erase any suspicion of corruption and, eventually, produce a series for Netflix.
Today Hawkers is a consolidated brand, with a presence in dozens of countries with more than a hundred stores. It has more than a million and a half followers on Instagram and has achieved collaborations with renowned celebrities such as Lionel Messi, Steve Aoki and Snoop Dogg.
His latest major project is Jaguar, starring the famous Blanca Suárez, once nominated for a Goya Award for The Skin I Live In, the film she made with Antonio Banderas.