Venezuelan Authorities Arrest Former Minister Tareck El Aissami in Corruption Probe

Former Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami arrested for alleged corruption and mismanagement at state-run PDVSA, highlighting the country's ongoing struggle with graft in its vital oil industry.

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Nimrah Khatoon
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Venezuelan Authorities Arrest Former Minister Tareck El Aissami in Corruption Probe

Venezuelan Authorities Arrest Former Minister Tareck El Aissami in Corruption Probe

Venezuelan authorities arrested former oil minister Tareck El Aissami as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption and mismanagement at the state-run oil company PDVSA. El Aissami, who was once one of the most influential officials in President Nicolas Maduro's government, has been charged with treason, money laundering, conspiracy, and misdirection of public funds.

The attorney general accused El Aissami of being a "master" of corruption and said he will face charges alongside former finance minister Simon Zerpa and businessman Sarmark Lopez. The case involves a network of PDVSA executives who allegedly used their positions to carry out illegal operations, including some involving cryptocurrencies.

Why this matters: The arrest of El Aissami, a high-profile figure in Venezuela's government, highlights the country's ongoing struggle with corruption and mismanagement in its vital oil industry. The investigation's findings could have significant implications for Venezuela's political and economic stability, as well as its relations with the international community.

The investigation has led to charges for more than 54 Venezuelans, with another 17 arrest warrants pending and five people agreeing to act as protected witnesses. El Aissami and his allies are accused of using U.S. sanctions as an excuse to directly manage shipments of crude, avoiding passing funds through the country's central bank and speculating on Venezuela's currency market.

PDVSA has also accumulated tens of billions of dollars in commercial accounts receivable tied to dozens of little-known middlemen companies, which replaced big-name customers barred by U.S. sanctions, leading to unpaid oil cargoes and a large hole in PDVSA's accounts. The government estimates over $23 billion in unpaid oil invoices.

The arrest of El Aissami prompted his powerful cousin Alex Aamer, known as "El Rojo," to hastily move assets and flee San Fernando, Apure state, where he allegedly controls fuel and gas smuggling operations at the border.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab stated, "Tareck El Aissami is one of the main responsible for the dismantling, the bankruptcy, and the corruption of PDVSA." The investigation, which also involves the cryptocurrency oversight agency and dozens of obscure brokers, has been described as a major step in uncovering the widespread corruption within Venezuela's oil industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Former Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami arrested for corruption.
  • El Aissami charged with treason, money laundering, and misusing public funds.
  • Investigation reveals network of PDVSA executives involved in illegal operations.
  • PDVSA has $23 billion in unpaid oil invoices due to corrupt practices.
  • Arrest prompts cousin Alex Aamer, known as "El Rojo," to flee the country.