Former Venezuelan oil, finance ministers arrested in PDVSA corruption case, AG says

By Thomson Reuters Apr 9, 2024 | 12:27 PM

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s former oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, once one of the most influential officials in President Nicolas Maduro’s government, has been arrested in a corruption probe into state oil company PDVSA, the attorney general said on Tuesday.

Former finance minister Simon Zerpa and businessman Sarmark Lopez have also been detained, attorney general Tarek Saab said during a press conference.

El Aissami surprisingly resigned in March 2023 amid a wide anti-corruption probe ordered by Maduro, which has been mainly focused on wrongdoing at PDVSA.

He has not spoken publicly for more than a year.

Saab said the case, which began in October 2022, involves a network of PDVSA executives who used their positions to carry out illegal operations, including some involving cryptocurrencies.

“The way these three subjects behaved is an economic conspiracy,” Saab said.

The investigation has so far led to the arrests of more than 54 Venezuelan officials and businessmen, with 17 arrest warrants still pending.

PDVSA accumulated tens of billions of dollars in commercial accounts receivable, tied to dozens of little known middlemen companies that replaced big-name firms barred by U.S. sanctions.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb)