A Venezuelan oil magnate is the true developer behind Boulevard 57, a $100 million condo tower planned for the MiMo neighborhood of Miami, according to a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County.
Since the 1980s, Gerardo Pantin Shortt and his family made hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company, the Miami Herald reported. Until now, Pantin has not been affiliated with Boulevard 57 on paper. The lawsuit, filed last year, alleges Pantin hid his involvement through dummy corporations and front men out of fear the Venezuelan government would try to seize his company.
Pantin’s former partner Carlos Cuevas filed the suit, alleging that Pantin owes him at least $10 million related to Boulevard 57. An attorney representing Pantin said Cuevas misappropriated corporate funds and had to be removed from the project. Cuevas and his attorney dismissed those claims to the Herald. “In the next few months all the truth will come out during the legal process. These false accusations are part of their campaign to try to justify Pantin’s wrongful actions moved only by his excessive greed,” Cuevas said.
When the project was first announced in May of last year, the developer’s COO Hector Torres told The Real Deal the company, Unitas Development Group, was backed by Latin American investors from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Panama. The company took over the project in 2014 and rebranded the former “Fifty-Seven” development site, a two-acre plot between Northeast 57th and Northeast 58th Streets off of Biscayne Boulevard, into a smaller, eight-story, 105-unit project. Condos, aimed at local end-users, range in price from $600,000 to $2.65 million.
Pantin confirmed to the Miami Herald that he is the director of the development group, and said that his family is not involved in politics but that he signed contracts worth nearly $1 billion with PDVSA, Venezuela’s oil company, between 2008 and 2015. He cited safety concerns for listing his associates in public records – before moving to the United States in 2012, family members had been kidnapped in Venezuela, Pantin told the Herald via email. According to an anonymous source, PDVSA now owes the Pantins about $200 million for previous work.
Through shell companies, Pantin owns a number of luxury homes in South Florida, including a Sunset Island mansion in Miami Beach and a pair of condos in Sunny Isles Beach. It’s worth noting that his name was not mentioned in the Panama Papers, a massive data leak that exposes the shady world of foreign shell companies.
Pantin’s attorney said he has been public about his involvement in Boulevard 57 in a “low-key manner.” Previous news stories and press releases about the project do not mention Pantin, but Torres described the oil magnate’s involvement as “the main person running the day-to-day” to the Miami Herald. He said he doesn’t know the identities of the other investors. [Miami Herald] – Katherine Kallergis