A Venezuelan court has found six American oil executives, known as the Citgo 6, guilty of a wide-ranging corruption scheme, immediately sentencing them to prison on Thursday.

The men all worked for Citgo, a US refining company owned by Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA. They were arrested in the capital Caracas three years ago after arriving there for a business meeting.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, shows CITGO oil executives Jose Angel Pereira, from left to right, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano.


©  Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry via AP / Jorge Arreaza

Citgo’s former president, Jose Angel Pereira, was sentenced to over 13 years in prison and given a $2 million fine. The others (all vice-presidents of the company at the time) – Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, and Alirio Jose Zambrano – received sentences of between eight and 10 years. They could be released on parole in a couple of years, defense lawyer Jesus Loreto said.

Also on rt.com

FILE PHOTO: Refinery workers check the valves of a filling platform at the El Palito refinery, 150 miles west of Caracas.
Venezuela says it captured ‘US spy’ targeting two oil refineries with ‘heavy, specialized’ weapons

Five of those arrested are Venezuelan-Americans with roots in Texas and Louisiana, and one is a permanent US resident, according to media reports.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the group was accused of signing a deal that was “unfavorable” for Venezuela’s state oil firm. The men have denied any wrongdoing.

Alirio Rafael Zambrano, whose two brothers are among the defendants, said that they were “undeniably innocent” and victims of “judicial terrorism.” No evidence presented in the case supports a guilty conviction, he said, as quoted by the New York Times.

One of the lawyers, Maria Alejandra Poleo, said the case was “void of evidence,” adding: “Of course the defense will appeal the decision.”

Also on rt.com

FILE PHOTO: A mural with a PDVSA logo at its gas station in Caracas © Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuela’s oil exports crash to 77-year low amid crushing US sanctions

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington will continue to do the “utmost” to bring the men home. “The US government has repeatedly called for the unconditional release of the Citgo 6 and their return to the United States. These six Americans and their families have suffered long enough; it is time for [President] Maduro to put politics aside and let these families be reunited,” said Pompeo.

In 2019, Washington introduced sanctions against Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA (which accounts for about 95 percent of the country’s export earnings) after recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Translate »
Legal Notice: Views expressed in articles published in www.ebusinessbrief.com are those of the authors and www.ebusinessbrief.com or its owners take no responsibility regarding the same. Advertisements in www.ebusinessbrief.com are published for information of the subscribers. www.ebusinessbrief.com does not authenticate, endorse or guarantee any of the products or services or claims made by the Advertisers. Readers are advised to themselves verify the details. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior written permission from the Editor. Permission is normally granted wherever sufficient acknowledgement is given to www.ebusinessbrief.com.