Venezuela seeks arrest of 9 oil officials as corruption purge widens

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Venezuelan authorities have ordered the arrest of nine oil and gas executives as part of a widening crackdown on corruption.

Attorney general Tarek Saab (pictured) said the accused were high-ranking employees of oil joint ventures Petropiar and Petrocedeño.

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Allegations include contract irregularities, falsification of oil production figures and administrative violations, state news service AVN reported.

Search warrants were also issued for eight companies: Clariant Venezuela, Constructora Tampa, Taller Vivolo y Construcciones Locurcio, Servicios y Mantenimiento de Flota Colina Alta, Desarrollo Tecnológico y Servicios (DTS), Producciones Alan, Inversiones Proluxo and Servicios y Construcciones Amunza.

"All these [companies] were involved in the fabrication of crude oil production figures through the use of water," attorney general Tarek Saab told a televised press conference.

Petropiar is a joint venture between Chevron (30%) and Venezuelan state company PDVSA (70%) with oil and gas operations in the Orinoco belt.

Petrocedeño is an operator comprosing PDVSA (60%), Total (30%) and Statoi (10%).}

PURGE

According to the government, prosecutors have detained or are seeking the arrest of 80 former PDVSA officials accused of participating in a scheme to "sabotage production".

They include former PDVSA chief executive Nelson Martínez and ex-oil minister Eulogio del Pino, who were imprisoned in November, just days after being replaced by military general and Maduro loyalist Manuel Quevedo.

Venezuela, holder of the world's largest oil reserves, is mired in a severe economic and political crisis marked by hyperinflation, rampant crime and acute shortages of food and medicine.

Analysts blame the collapse on strict foreign currency controls, reckless money printing and a dramatic decline in oil production, which accounts for 95% of Venezuela's export earnings.