Venezuelan companies that dispute a deal they consummated in Curacao may return there to seek missing U.S. Treasury bills, but first they will appeal the ejection of their $72 million complaint from Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Publicidad Vepaco, a billboard company, and LaTele Television have retained Holland & Knight partner Rodolfo Sorondo Jr. to appeal the decision that the complex deal hatched in Caracas has no business in a Florida courtroom.
"This case is dismissed for plaintiffs to refile in Curacao if they choose to do so," Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola said in her order.
Vepaco and LaTele seek the T-bills they assert were stolen by defendants Nelson Mezerhane and Rogelio Trujillo. Mezerhane, former owner of Banco Federal, and Trujillo, its chief executive, moved to South Florida after the Venezuelan government took over the bank in mid-2010.
In October 2009 the corporations borrowed from Caracas-based Banco Federal to convert Venezuelan currency into U.S. Treasury bills.
Fernando Fraiz, the principal of Vepaco and LaTele, executed various documents authorizing the purchase and transfer of the T-bills through three Curacao entities.
"However, at the direction and instructions of Federal, Vepaco and LaTele signed off on a series of letters that rather than completing plaintiffs' contemplated purchase of the T-bills served instead as a means to divert the T-bills plaintiffs had paid for to companies ultimately owned and controlled by you," the Miami attorney for the Venezuelan corporations, Leoncio de la Pena of De La Pena Group, said in letters demanding the defendants repay the money.
Vepaco and LaTele alleged six causes of action against Mezerhane and Trujillo: fraud, conspiracy to defraud, conversion, conspiracy to commit conversion, civil theft and unjust enrichment.
"The Venezuelan government has filed criminal charges against defendant Mezerhane for masterminding a criminal enterprise that successfully looted Federal of hundreds of millions of dollars of other people's monies to pay for a gilded exile and an army of lawyers to hide and keep stolen money," their complaint said.
"They deny that they defrauded or misled anybody," said solo practitioner Henry Bell of Miami, one of their lawyers.