Thor Halvorssen Hellum
|Born||May 16, 1943|
|Died||July 20, 2014 71)(aged|
|Occupation||Businessman, ambassador, and special investigator|
|Known for||Investigating government links to money laundering and drug trafficking|
Thor Halvorssen Hellum (born in Caracas May 16, 1943- July 20, 2014 )—commonly known as Thor Halvorssen [a] —was a Venezuelan-Norwegian businessman who served as CEO and President of the Venezuelan state-owned telephone company, CANTV and later as Special Commissioner for International Narcotic Affairs in the administration of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. In this post he held the rank of Ambassador. While investigating links to money laundering and drug trafficking, he was imprisoned on charges of terrorism; he was beaten and mistreated in prison, but later found innocent of all charges. Halvorssen's case was taken up by Amnesty International and several other international human rights organizations. The set-up of Halvorssen was reportedly payback for his investigations into presidential corruption, mafia activity, and the money laundering activities of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Halvorssen, of Norwegian descent, is one of the four sons of a Norwegian businessman, Øystein Halvorssen. His father became the president of GMAC (now Ally Financial) in Venezuela before he began his own business operations, and also served as an honorary, unpaid consul-general in Caracas for Norway from 1938.Øystein Halvorssen was the son of a station master and post office worker in Ringsaker, whose ancestors had been cotters in the Hadeland district of Norway. According to the journalist Gaeton Fonzi, who wrote an investigative story about Halvorssen's life, he led the "jet-setting life style" of a "happy-go-lucky" son of a wealthy businessman. With his twin brother Olaf, he befriended Jerry Wolman, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. The three became partners in real estate transactions and night clubs. Halvorssen graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) in 1966 and completed a Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania MBA in 1969.
After graduating, Halvorssen returned to Caracas to help run the family businesses. Halvorssen’s commercial activities were wide-ranging and included ownership of Venezuelan insurance company Axxa, and representation of international conglomerates Dunlop, Ericsson, British Cellophane. Halvorssen was also a real estate developer, owning the company that built the 350-room Melia Caribe hotel.
President Carlos Andres Pérez was elected in 1974 and in 1977 appointed Halvorssen, then 34, president of the Venezuelan state-owned telephone company CANTV; Halvorssen served as president and CEO of CANTV from 1978 until Pérez completed his term.At 36, Halvorssen became involved in community service, working at Venezuela's largest grant-giving charitable foundation, the Dividendo Voluntario Para La Comunidad for six years and serving as its President from 1976–1979. He started a program to build sports facilities in the poorest barrios with a focus on baseball.
In the 1980s Halvorssen focused his financial support for victims of human rights violations in Central America that had been ignored during the proxy wars between the Soviet Union and the United States by co-founding the Caracas-based Romulo Gallegos human rights organization from where he took up the causes of Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians and focused on violations of human rights by Marxist rebel groups throughout Central American and Colombia.Halvorssen participated in the creation and financing of the “alternative human right forums” that began in Geneva in the early 1990s. Halvorssen served on the boards of the Andrei Sakharov Institute and headed the Pan-American committee of the International Society for Human Rights.
When President Pérez was elected President again in 1989, he named Halvorssen Venezuela's Special Commissioner for anti-Narcotic Affairs with the rank of Ambassador.
After government service Halvorssen lived in Miami where he was an active member of the Venezuelan opposition to the government of Hugo Chávez.
As chief of anti-narcotics, Halvorssen was behind the extradition to Italy of the Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan members Pasquale, Paolo and Gaspare Cuntrera. Gaeton Fonzi, former U.S. Senate investigator, wrote that "the remaining Mafia in Venezuela do not remember Halvorssen fondly for that".Halvorssen worked closely with Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau investigating the financial affairs of Venezuelan government officials. Halvorssen discovered the secret bank accounts of Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez, the man who had appointed Halvorssen. The evidence revealed $19 million that Perez and his mistress, Cecilia Matos, had deposited into numbered accounts. This discovery and the airing of the evidence in Venezuela led to the impeachment of President Perez in May 1993.
When Pérez offered him the position of "drug czar", Halvorssen says he accepted because, "I went to a detoxification clinic in the US and I was so appalled by what I saw there that I resolved that I would do anything I could to fight drug trafficking."According to Isabel Hilton, writing in the British edition of Gentleman's Quarterly (GQ) , observers say that Pérez may even have offered Halvorssen the job as a necessary matching gesture when US president George H. W. Bush appointed William Bennett as his Director of National Drug Control Policy, thinking that Halvorssen was still drinking and wouldn't cause problems. Halvorssen performed his duties well, deciding to use his worldwide contacts and intelligence connections to detail the extent of Venezuela's role in the drug world. Halvorssen believed that Pérez wasn't responding to his reports on drug trafficking and money laundering and approached his ally, Venezuelan Senator Cristobal Fernandez Daló. In 1992, he was appointed special overseas investigator of an Anti-Money-Laundering Commission by the Venezuelan Senate. He was a liaison between law enforcement agencies around the world, working on drug and money-laundering cases.
In 1993, while Halvorssen was investigating the now defunct Banco Latino and the Grupo Progreso,he was arrested and imprisoned for 74 days on charges of terrorism, which a Venezuelan congressman described at the time as a "set up because he was investigating Medellín Cartel finances and links to Venezuelan businessmen and officials." Halvorssen was one of 12 people charged in a series of six bomb attacks in Caracas in July and August 1993. Police claimed the motive was profit—to capitalize on stock market fluctuations caused by the bombs. Halvorssen denied the charges and claimed he had made no stock or bond transactions in the Venezuelan stock market for two decades.
One of the alleged members of the group of bombers, Ramiro Helmeyer, told police that Halvorssen was the leader. Helmeyer initially recanted his confession, claiming that the police "tortured me so that I would accuse Thor Halvorssen".Helmeyer was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Helmeyer lost every appeal and took his case to the Supreme Court. In 1994, Halvorssen wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial stating that he had investigated Banco Latino for money laundering and for being a Ponzi scheme. Halvorssen was arrested in Caracas one day after a Banco Latino official asked him to come to Venezuela from New York for a meeting with the bank's chairman. Halvorssen was warned by a U.S. Treasury Department agent that the meeting with Banco Latino was a trap. Halvorssen went anyway and was arrested. Banco Latino went on to become the largest bank fraud in Venezuelan history. While serving his prison sentence for murder, in February 1998, Helmeyer changed his story to say the bombing campaign was financed by the Banco Latino by way of its president Gustavo Gómez López and now said that Halvorssen (who was supposedly investigating Banco Latino) was the key organizer. Helmeyer was a relative of the family that founded the Banco Latino.
Halvorssen was held without being charged for eight days.By the time he was released, he had still not been charged with a crime—the only thing that kept him in prison was an order of arrest signed eight days after his actual detention. Halvorssen was beaten and suffered from mistreatment while in the notorious Retén de Catia prison, ranked among the most cruel prisons in the world by human-rights organisations. International organizations, including Amnesty International, a Nicaraguan cardinal, and members of the British Parliament, protested Halvorssen case. Halvorssen was exonerated and his order of arrest rescinded. No files were ever charged against him. After his release, the United Nations-affiliated International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee.
In GQ magazine, Isabel Hilton also covers Halvorssen's investigation of Orlando Castro Llanes, a Venezuelan businessman of Cuban descent and owner of the Grupo Progreso.Hilton states that Castro was involved in arranging the false arrest of Halvorssen and the media campaign to destroy his reputation. According to Hilton, Castro was linked as a money laundering partner to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in a letter written by Escobar to his attorney; the authenticity of the letter is questioned by Castro's attorney. Castro had visited Halvorssen in prison with his son who beat Halvorssen while he was handcuffed to a chair. Wire reports and newspaper articles written during his time in prison portrayed Halvorssen as guilty and corrupt. A framework of opinion was created to destroy any credibility Halvorssen could have when testifying in a court of law in the United States. Regarding the charges of terrorism she writes: "In reality, the police case against Halvorssen was non-existent…He was completely exonerated." Armando Valladares describes Halvorssen's decision to serve as anti-Drug Czar as "quixotic" for having "simultaneously took on the entire banking sector without a budget or structural support in the government."
During his time in prison, when there was an all out media campaign against him, Halvorssen was supported by the New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau who praised his efforts as someone who provided assistance to his office in the fight against the international narcotics business, as well as to federal law enforcement officials of the United States.
When Halvorssen was in prison, officials in Miami distanced the DEA from Halvorssen and stated that his drug information was considered unreliable. The head of that office at the time was Tom V. Cash. Cash, ultimately was involved in covering up the fraud of convicted criminal Allen Stanford of Stanford Bank and had to resign in disgrace from his job at Kroll Associates for both protecting Stanford's reputation and for investigating U.S. Senate investigators rooting out corruption. . One of those investigated by Cash was Jonathan Winer of the office of John Kerry. Winer had worked closely with Halvorssen in the 1990s. Kroll, coincidentally, is also the firm that was hired by the banks Halvorssen had been investigating for money laundering: Banco Latino.When Halvorssen was in prison, Tom V. Cash had stated that Halvorssen had "unusual ties to and knowledge of drug traffickers"; the DEA said it "refused to deal with him, citing as reasons 'duplicity and manipulation.'" Halvorssen denied working with Florida agencies, and human rights advocates who knew him said that, considering his involvement in the fight against narcotrafficking, the accusations were not unexpected. Meanwhile, Senate investigators like Jonathan Winer and the New York District Attorney continued to stand by Halvorssen. Another critic of Halvorssen was opinion columnist Manuel Malaver, who published a weekly opinion column in Venezuelan media, in his book La DEA contra la Guardia Nacional de Venezuela claims that Halvorssen was part of parallel underworld of rogue police officers that became involved in a conspiracy to destabilize the government of Ramón J. Velásquez in association with a group of powerful adversaries against the possible presidency of Rafael Caldera or Andrés Velásquez. Presidential elections were scheduled in December 1993 after the impeachment of President Perez in May 1993. Halvorssen publicly responded to Malaver in a 3,500 word point-by-point rebuttal. Halvorssen referred to Malaver as acting in bad faith, malicious, and violating journalistic ethics: "Lamentable, shameful, and cowardly." Malaver's accusations, in his book, contain opinions and provide no statements of fact about the accusations he makes against Halvorssen.
Three weeks after Halvorssen's release, Banco Latino folded and its directors were charged with numerous crimes.They are still fugitives. Depositors lost billions of dollars. Orlando Castro Llanes fled Venezuela and was ultimately extradited from Miami to New York to face charges of grand larceny and theft.
Castro's own banks also collapsed leaving depositors unable to recuperate their savings. On April 4, 1996, Castro Llanes was indicted in New York by District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Castro's son and grandson were also arrested on charges of a scheme to defraud in the first degree. They were also under investigation by the US Federal Reserve for laundering more than US$3 billion. The three Castros were convicted on grand larceny charges on February 19, 1997, and in April of that year sentenced to various prison terms.The larceny involved defrauding depositors of the Banco Progreso International de Puerto Rico of as much as US$55 million. His crime also cost the government of Venezuela more than US$8 million.
Orlando Castro and his attorneys claim that Thor Halvorssen was used to prevent Castro Llanes from buying the prestigious Banco de Venezuela in 1990. While working as Venezuela's government drug czar, Halvorssen was hired by the board of the Banco de Venezuela for US$1.2 million (a book by an opinion columnist flatly states it was US$7 million) to investigate whether Castro Llanes was using drug money, to thwart Castro Llanes' bitterly contested hostile takeover for control of the bank. According to Castro Llanes, he was never accepted in exclusive political and economic circles and was considered unfit by the Venezuelan elite to lead the country's most important banking institution.
A small group of shareholders, supposedly all members of a Caracas Country Club, joined with the Banco Provincial, the powerful industrial group Grupo Polar and Finalven opposing the Banco Consolidado of José Alvarez Stelling, the Grupo Progreso Latinoamericano of Orlando Castro and the Grupo del Banco Unión. According to an unnamed member of the board of the Banco de Venezuela, Halvorssen was contracted to prevent at all cost that Castro would become the major shareholder and would control the bank. Halvorssen concluded that Castro Llanes was laundering drug money and was involved in other financial irregularities and handed over the material to allies in the Congress who had parliamentary immunity. Castro's adversaries started a media campaign to discredit him.
According to Malaver, Halvorssen allegedly received US$7 million from the bank to demonstrate that Orlando Castro was a drug trafficker. According to Malaver the accusation of drug trafficking against Orlando Castro was false.After Malaver's book was published Orlando Castro was indicted by Robert Morgenthau for Grand Larceny. Orlando Castro was tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison in New York. He died in 2014.
Charles Intriago—attorney for Orlando Castro and former federal prosecutor, as well as editor of Money Laundering Alert, the newsletter financed by Orlando Castro, and the well-known host of a biennial national money-laundering conference that attracts justice and law enforcement authorities, came to Castro Llanes’ defense and countered that Halvorssen ran a "smear campaign" and fed lies to US officials.It was later disclosed that Money Laundering Alert had received its seed money from Castro. Intriago's activities came under investigation of the House Government Reform Committee where he repeatedly plead the Fifth Amendment when asked about his involvement with Castro and his own illegal campaign contributions to the re-election campaign of President Bill Clinton. Despite Malaver and Intriago's claims that Castro was an honest businessman being smeared by Halvorssen, Castro was convicted and sentenced to prison in 1997. After completing his prison sentence Castro was extradited to Venezuela to stand trial for bank fraud. He was convicted and sent to El Junquito prison.
New York film producer Marla Shelton purchased the rights to Halvorssen's life story while working for Academy-Award nominated director James Ivory of Merchant Ivory Productions. The script titled "Smoke and Mirrors" was written for the screen by Venezuelan architect and author Alex Ceppi (writer). [ citation needed ] Bestselling British investigative author David Yallop wrote a novel, Unholy Alliance, that included the story of his own involvement in Halvorssen's case.
Thor Halvorssen married Nelly Yanez de Halvorssen (1986-2014)
Halvorssen's older brother, Erik, also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and his younger brother, Stein, attended Columbia University.His twin brother, Olaf, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and was a recipient of Norway's Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. Øystein and Stein were knighted by King Olav V.
Halvorssen Hellum's son is film producer and human rights activist Thor Halvorssen Mendoza, founder of the Human Rights Foundation,and his wife is Nelly. His nephew is Venezuelan political leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Halvorssen Hellum died on July 20, 2014, due to a head injury suffered after a fall at his Miami home.
Orlando Bosch Ávila was a Cuban exile, Central Intelligence Agency-backed operative, and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization". Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called Bosch an "unrepentant terrorist". He was accused of taking part in Operation Condor and several terrorist attacks, including bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner on 6 October 1976 in which all 73 people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five North Koreans. The bombing is alleged to have been plotted at a 1976 meeting in Washington, D.C. attended by Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and DINA agent Michael Townley. At the same meeting, the assassination of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier is alleged to have been plotted. Bosch was given safe haven within the US in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, who in 1976 as head of the CIA had declined an offer by Costa Rica to extradite Bosch.
José Vicente Rangel Vale is a Venezuelan leftist politician. He ran for President three times in the 1970s and 1980s and later supported Hugo Chávez. He served under Chávez as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2001, as Minister of Defense from 2001 to 2002, and as Vice President of Venezuela from 2002 to 2007.
Jossy Mehsen Mansur was the editor of the Papiamento-language newspaper Diario in Aruba. He wrote two dictionaries for the Papiamento language and a history of Aruba among other books.
The Venezuelan coup attempts of 1992 were attempts to seize control of the government of Venezuela by the Hugo Chávez-led Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200. The first coup attempt took place on 4 February 1992, and was led by Chávez. A second coup attempt on 27 November 1992, took place while Chávez was in prison but was directed by a group of young military officers who were loyal to the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200. The coups were directed against President Carlos Andrés Pérez and occurred in a period marked by neo-liberal economic reforms, which were attempted in order to decrease the country's level of indebtedness and had caused major protests and labour unrest. Despite their failure to depose the government of Carlos Andrés, the February coup attempts brought Chávez into the national spotlight. Fighting during the coups resulted in the deaths of at least 143 people and perhaps as many as several hundred.
Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza —commonly known as Thor Halvorssen —is a Venezuelan human rights advocate and film producer with contributions in the field of public policy, public interest advocacy, individual rights and civil liberties, and pro-democracy advocacy. The New York Times described Halvorssen in an August 2007 profile as a maverick "who champions the underdog and the powerless." In a 2013 profile Buzzfeed publishes that Halvorssen "possesses a burning desire to right the countless injustices of this world and he has committed himself to this task with an intensity to match that of the dictatorship he has placed in his sights. And he does not care if those injustices are being committed by the 'right-wing' or 'left-wing' regimes."
The Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations was a United States-supported militant group responsible for a number of terrorist activities directed at the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. It was founded by a group that included Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, and was composed chiefly of Cuban exiles opposed to the Castro government. It was formed in 1976 as an umbrella group for a number of anti-Castro militant groups. Its activities including a number of bombings and assassinations, including the killing of human-rights activist Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., and the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 which killed 73 people.
Leopoldo Eduardo López Mendoza is a Venezuelan politician and former political prisoner. He co-founded the political party Primero Justicia in 2000 with Henrique Capriles Radonski and Julio Borges and was elected mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas in the regional elections held in July 2000. He is the National Coordinator of another political party, Voluntad Popular, a Socialist International affiliated party, which he founded in 2009. López has received multiple awards from NGOs and other organizations for his activism.
The Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan is a Mafia clan of the Cosa Nostra and held a key position in the illicit drug trade and money laundering for Cosa Nostra in the 1980s and 1990s. The Italian press baptized the clan as 'The Rothschilds of the Mafia' or 'The Bankers of Cosa Nostra'.
Luis Manuel Miquilena Hernández was a Venezuelan politician. He was involved in politics in the 1940s, and again after the 1958 restoration of democracy, but retired from politics in 1964 until the early 1990s, pursuing a career in business. He was then an early supporter of Hugo Chávez' post-1992 political career, and was the Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice from 2001 to 2002, when he resigned.
Thor Halvorssen may refer to:
Orlando Castro Llanes was a Venezuelan businessman whose financial empire of banks and insurance agencies collapsed in 1994 and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned in the United States.
Marcel Granier Haydon is a Venezuelan businessperson. He is the President and CEO of Empresas 1BC and the General Director of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), which until becoming a cable TV-channel on May 27, 2007, was the most watched television channel in Venezuela.
The level of corruption in Venezuela is high by world standards and is prevalent throughout many levels of Venezuelan society. Discovery of oil in Venezuela in the early 20th century has worsened political corruption. The large amount of corruption and mismanagement in the country has resulted in severe economic difficulties, part of the crisis in Bolivarian Venezuela. Transparency International's 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks the country in 169th place out of 180 countries.
Juan Jose Orlando Hernández Alvarado, often known as JOH, is the current president of Honduras, who assumed office on January 27, 2014, after winning the 2013 Honduran general election. He began his second presidential term on January 27, 2018.
Illegal drug trade in Venezuela is the practice of illegal drug trading in Venezuela. Venezuela has been a path to the United States for illegal drugs originating in Colombia, through Central America and Mexico and Caribbean countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
Crime in Venezuela is widespread, with violent crimes such as murder and kidnapping increasing annually. The United Nations has attributed crime to the poor political and economic environment in the country, which has the second highest murder rate in the world. Rates of crime increased rapidly during the presidency of Hugo Chávez due to the institutional instability of his Bolivarian government, underfunding of police resources and high inequality. Chávez's government sought a cultural hegemony, promoting class conflict and social fragmentation in order to establish a hegemony, which in turn encouraged "criminal gangs to kill, kidnap, rob and extort". By the time Chávez died in 2013, Venezuela was ranked the most insecure nation in the world by Gallup.
Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López is a Venezuelan businessman who serves as Chairman and CEO of Derwick Associates, an engineering, procurement and construction company. He is the leader of the international investment group O'Hara Administration, and a director of Pacific Exploration & Production Corporation, a publicly held Canadian company and a leading explorer and producer of natural gas and crude oil which operates in various Latin American countries. Betancourt controls 19.95% of Pacific Exploration & Production. He is also president of Hawkers, a Spanish sunglasses company.
Antisemitism in Venezuela has happened occasionally in Venezuela throughout the history of the Jews in Venezuela. However, under the presidencies of both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, allegations of antisemitism grew following actions and statements by the Venezuelan government, while also occurring in public incidents. The Bolivarian government would also use the words of "Jewish" and "Zionist" interchangeably in order to avoid accusations of antisemitism.
Scandinavian Venezuelan is a Venezuelan person of full or partial Scandinavian ancestry, or a Scandinavian-born person residing in Venezuela.
Óscar Alberto Pérez was a Venezuelan rebel leader and investigator for the CICPC, Venezuela's investigative agency. He was also an actor in a film to promote the role of detectives in the CICPC. He is better known for being responsible for the Caracas helicopter incident during the 2017 Venezuelan protests and the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis. His killing in the El Junquito raid received worldwide attention by the media and the political establishment, and was met with accusations of extrajudicial killing.