Former Venezuelan oil minister is arrested in connection with corruption probe, authorities say

Venezuela’s government says the country’s former oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, was arrested on allegations of corruption

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 09 April 2024 18:47 BST

Venezuela’s once powerful oil minister who quit last year has been arrested on allegations of corruption, the government announced Tuesday.

The Ministry of Communications released images of Tareck El Aissami being handcuffed and walking down a hallway flanked by officers.

The oil minister resigned a few days before senior officials in the government of President Nicolás Maduro and business leaders were arrested in March 2023 as part of an investigation into corruption scheme involving international oil sales.

El Aissami disappeared from public life after last year’s arrests and his whereabouts were frequently questioned and rumored about.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab told reporters El Aissami’s arrest took time because of the various steps in the investigation. The top prosecutor tied the former minister to the alleged scheme that involved selling Venezuelan oil through the country’s cryptocurrency oversight agency in parallel to the state-run Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

Saab last year said the oversight agency allegedly signed contracts for the loading of crude on ships “without any type of administrative control or guarantees,” violating legal regulations. He said that once the oil was marketed, “the corresponding payments were not made” to the state oil company.

In announcing his resignation — seen as shocking as was portrayed as a loyal ruling party member and considered a key figure in the government’s efforts to evade punishing international economic sanctions — El Aissami said he wanted to “fully support” the investigations.

The United States designated El Aissami a narcotics kingpin in 2017 in connection with activities in his previous positions as interior minister and governor.

Corruption has long been rampant in Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves. But officials are rarely held accountable — a major irritant to citizens.

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