Citgo 6: US Oil Executives Convicted Of Corruption In Venezuela
Six US oil executives have been jailed after being found guilty of corruption by a court in Venezuela.
The men all worked for Citgo, a US refining company owned by Venezuela’s state oil firm, and were arrested in the capital Caracas three years ago.They all denied wrongdoing.
Citgo’s former president, Jose Pereira, was sentenced to over 13 years in prison and given a $2m (£1.5m) fine. The others received sentences of between eight and 10 years.
The others, who were all vice-presidents of the company at the time, have been named as Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell and Gustavo Cardenas.
One of the group’s lawyers told Reuters news agency that the men planned to appeal and described them as “political prisoners”.
“The evidence for the crimes they are accused of was not there, it did not even mention the six of them,” lawyer Maria Alejandra said.
The group, all US citizens or permanent residents, was arrested in November 2017 after being called to Caracas for a meeting.
According to Human Rights Watch, the group was accused of signing a deal that was “unfavourable” for Venezuela’s state oil firm.
Their arrests marked the beginning of a sweeping anti-corruption operation in Venezuela.
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Critics of President Nicolás Maduro said the move was part of a political purge.
Venezuela’s oil industry is key for the government as it accounts for about 95% of the country’s export earnings.
Last year, the US introduced sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA after recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.
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