Former high-ranking JPMorgan banker and British dealmaker Ian Hannam was behind a secret late-November meeting between private security magnate and big Trump donor Erik Prince and Venezuela’s vice president - a meeting that may have violated U.S. law.
Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Hannam arranged the trip as part of a year-long scouting effort for gold investments in the crisis-battered nation. Prince’s meeting with Venezuela Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has been reported; Hannam’s role has not.
The back-channel meetings and discussions raise questions of whether Prince, who is the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may have violated U.S. law against doing business with sanctioned officials, according to Bloomberg.
Hannam is a British citizen and therefore not subject to the same restrictions, according to Bloomberg.
Citing sources familiar with the trip, Bloomberg reported that the meeting was part of a behind-the-scenes scramble for Venezuela’s wealth and resources as it continues to grapple 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 told Bloomberg.
Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and founder of the security firm Blackwater, also pushed for the freedom of six imprisoned Citgo executives during his visit. His effort to secure their release was the official reason for his trip, and therefore would not contravene sanctions.