Venezuela Returns Six Citgo Executives to Prison

Venezuela Returns Six Citgo Executives to Prison
The executives are all U.S. citizens except for one, who holds U.S. residency.

Venezuela intelligence police have transferred the six Citgo Petroleum Corp. executives who where under house arrest to its headquarters, lawyers for the men said. 

Jose Pereira, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cárdenas and Jorge Toledo were transferred from their homes by the government police known as Sebin, said lawyers Jesus Loreto and Diego Barboza. All were on house arrest after being sentenced to as much as 13 years in prison on corruption charges by a Venezuelan judge in November 2020. 

This is the second time the men were transferred from house arrest to Sebin’s headquarters. The move comes after Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman close to President Nicolas Maduro, was extradited to the U.S. from Cape Verde to face charges on money laundering. Venezuela’s government also pulled out of a round of negotiations with the political opposition set to begin on Sunday in Mexico to protest the extradition.

The executives, all U.S. citizens except for Pereira, who holds U.S. residency, were arrested in 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at the Caracas headquarters of PDVSA, as the state-oil company is known. 

The arrest unleashed Maduro’s purge on PDVSA’s high ranks, including the detentions of PDVSA and Citgo heads. Military officials and other socialist hard-liners replaced oil executive management. The U.S. imposed sanctions on the judge, Lorena Cornielles Ruiz, and the prosecutor, Ramon Torres Espinoza. 

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