CJR: When scams make headlines

novemberdecember2014cover_300x400Full story available here.

On September 15, 2011, executives of Arevenca, an Aruba-based oil company, and Avic Xac, a Chinese state aircraft company, signed the biggest oil deal in history in Madrid. The agreement promised $200 billion a year in trade over 10 years at a total value of $2 trillion. Francisco Javier González, the president of Arevenca, spoke at the signing about plans to supply not only fuel but also ports and railways.

Within hours, the news was out. Scores of news websites around the world carried a wire story from EFE, Spain’s biggest news agency. Viewers could also see a Spanish-language video news report on EFE’s own page or on its YouTube channel; an extended English-language version promptly appeared on González’ YouTube channel.

EFE had been played. Arevenca was little more than a website full of lies and an office in Aruba. The money involved, $200 billion, was comparable to the annual revenue of global corporations like Chevron. Avic Xac has nothing to do with ports. There was barely anyone at the signing ceremony—no ambassadors, no bankers, and, notably, no oil reporters. Despite enough red flags to stock a Communist Party parade, EFE ran its story, both in print and video. Commenters on YouTube quickly said the event was a fraud, but the video is still there. (The article and video have been removed from EFE’s website.)

Read the full story here.

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About Steven Bodzin

Steven Bodzin is a reporter. He blogged when he was a freelancer.

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