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Home World News Washington Post World News Venezuela arrests ex-oiltsar’s brother in corruption investigation

Venezuela arrests ex-oiltsar’s brother in corruption investigation

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela has returned the brother of the country’s former oil czar to prison as part of an ongoing investigation into a multi-billion dollar embezzlement at the state oil company.

Fidel Ramirez was arrested last Wednesday after failing to appear in court as required by the terms of his bail, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab said in a brief interview with The Associated Press on Sunday.

Ramirez was originally arrested in early 2018 for his alleged involvement in a 10-year-old plan to transfer $2 billion from state oil giant PDVSA to a bank account in the small European country of Andorra.

At the time of the alleged crimes, PDVSA was led by his brother, former Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, a harsh critic of the socialist government he once served.

Fidel Ramirez, a doctor who once cared for the late Hugo Chavez, is accused of collecting 250,000 euros in an account with Banca Privada d’Andorra, or BPA, as a result of alleged fraudulent medical services he billed PDVSA through two companies, among others. names of persons.

Banking authorities in Andorra, a mountainous country sandwiched between France and Spain, intervened in 2015 after accusations by the US Treasury Department that it had become a central mouthpiece for the money laundering of government-affiliated elites in Venezuela, Russia and China. .

Rafael Ramirez did not immediately respond to a request for comment and has been largely silent on social media in recent days, where he regularly pokes fun at Nicolás Maduro’s government and its repeated attempts to link him to corruption at PDVSA. The latest attempt came earlier this month when Saab, acting in response to complaints from current oil chief Tareck El Aissami, accused Ramirez of involvement in a $5 billion currency scheme involving fake loans to PDVSA from government insiders.

Ramirez was for many years one of Chavez’s most trusted assistants, tasked with managing the world’s largest petroleum reserves at a time of rising oil prices.

But when the late socialist icon fell ill and eventually died of cancer, he saw his influence within the Bolivarian revolution fade as his rival Maduro tightened his grip on power. He has called the charges against him in Venezuela a witch hunt in retaliation for his decision to break with Maduro, whom he tried to oust as president. Italy, where Ramirez fled after resigning as Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations in 2017, rejected Venezuela’s extradition request last year and found he would face political prosecution if sent to the bank.

But Ramirez was also on the radar of US prosecutors after he was named — but not indicted — in an indictment partially unlocked in Houston in 2018 against five former PDVSA officials.

The indictment alleges that two of the accused told businessmen that bribe proceeds would be shared with a senior Venezuelan official in exchange for prompt payments and contracts. That official was identified only as “Official B” in the unsealed portion of the indictment. The unidentified Venezuelan politician is Ramirez, a US official told The Associated Press.

Corruption has long been rampant in Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves, but officials are rarely held accountable — a major annoyance to citizens, the majority of whom live on $1.90 a day, the international benchmark for extreme poverty.

Goodman reported from Miami



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