21 Venezuelan officials arrested for alleged oil corruption

21 Venezuelan officials arrested for alleged oil corruption

The Venezuelan attorney general Tarek William Saab speaks at a news conference about corruption cases with the state-owned oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela on March 25, 2023. Venezuela's oil czar, Tareck El Aissami, has announced his resignation on Monday, March 20, 2023, and pledged to help investigate any allegations involving PDVSA. The AP Photo Matias Delacroix CARACAS, Venezuela AP - Venezuela's attorney general said Saturday 21 people, including senior officials in the government of President Nicol s Maduro and business leaders, have been arrested in connection with a corruption scheme involving international oil sales.

Prosecutor Tarek William Saab said the scheme involved selling Venezuelan oil through the country's criptocurrency oversight agency in parallel to the state-owned Petr leos de Venezuela SA.

The oversight agency allegedly signed contracts for the loading of crude on ships without any type of administrative control or guarantees, violating legal regulations, Saab said. After oil was marketed, the payments were not made to the state oil company.

The attorney general resigned five days after Venezuela's once-powerful oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, resigned amid allegations of corruption against some of his closest associates.

El Aissami said he was resigned to accompany and fully support the investigations. El Aissami, who was one of Maduro's trusted ministers, is not facing charges.

In 2017 the U.S. government named El Aissami a narcotics kingpin in connection with activities in his previous positions as interior minister and governor. El Aissami's resignation was announced two days after the Public Ministry appointed five prosecutors to investigate the crimes investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Police.

According to the attorney general, 10 of the arrested are Col. Antonio Prez Surez, the vice president of trade and quality supply at PDVSA, Hugbel Roa, the former minister of food, and Joselit Ramrez, the national superintendent of cryptocurrencies.

Saab said 11 businessmen were also arrested who were charged with appropriation or diversion of public assets, influence peddling, money laundering and criminal association, and will also be charged with treason against the country.

Corruption has been rampant in Venezuela, which sits atop the world's largest petroleum reserves. The majority of people in the United States live on $1.90 a day, the international benchmark of extreme poverty, but officials are rarely held accountable.