In a press conference held this Wednesday (5), the Attorney General of the Republic of Venezuela, Tarek William Saab, did not rule out the participation of the country’s former Oil Minister in cases of corruption at the state oil company PDVSA.
“With regard to ongoing investigations, my characteristic is not to advance opinions, I will not advance on this topic. […] So I don’t want to give away information about any particular name,” he said.
Tarek El Aissami was oil minister from April 2020 until he resigned following the arrest of corruption suspects at PDVASA in mid-March. The operation that investigates possible crimes at the oil company claims that public resources may have been diverted from PDVSA negotiations.
The Venezuelan Public Prosecutor’s Office also announced that it had brought 13 new suspects of corruption in state-owned companies to court. Most of them are directors of companies that belong to Corporación Venezuela de Guayana (CVG), a state-owned conglomerate that became the target of investigations in the second phase of operations by the Anti-Corruption Police.
According to Saab, 51 people have already been arrested since the actions against these alleged cases of corruption in various public sectors began, on March 17th.
“So far, there are 51 people deprived of their liberty for various corruption schemes, including PDVSA-Crypto, CVG, and imprisoned judges”, he explained.
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Still according to Saab, the investigations reached not only the country’s state oil company, PDSVA, and CVG, but also the company cartons from Venezuela, whose director, Hugo Cabezas, was arrested in the latest phase of the operations. A member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Cabezas was once governor of the state of Trujillo and has held ministry positions during the government of former President Hugo Chávez.
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An operation headed by the MP and the Anti-Corruption Police of Venezuela – a body created by the government in 2014 – began investigating the largest state-owned company in the country, PDVSA, and has already reached other state-owned companies.
In the last week, CVG became the target of investigations after the police stated that “a group of employees and businessmen […] could be involved in serious acts of administrative corruption and mismanagement of funds”.
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Comprising 14 companies with more than 20,000 employees, CVG operates in the mining, metallurgical, steel and hydroelectric sectors. Investigations into PDVSA, in turn, left public officials and businessmen in jail, accused of embezzling funds from oil negotiations.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the scheme consisted of diverting amounts from PDVSA cargo payments that were converted into cryptocurrencies to then be laundered by a network of businessmen in the purchase of goods and, mainly, investments in the real estate sector.
So far, the total or partial amount that would have been embezzled from the companies has not been officially disclosed.
Editing: Thales Schmidt