Venezuela’s New “Crusade against Corruption” Leaves Out Big Names of Ruling Party Elite

cruzada - corrupcion - pdvsa
From left to right: Asdrúbal Chávez: Cousin to dictator Hugo cousin and president of Citgo, Rafael Ramírez: former president of PDVSA, Erik Malpica Flores: nephew of Maduro and Cilia; and Tarek William Saab: illegitimate attorney general. (/PanAm Post)

EspañolNicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela has begun a “crusade” against corruption, allegedly detaining everyone involved in cases of money laundering and similar crimes in the state oil company PDVSA. But the “fight” seems to be suspiciously selective.

The regime’s Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, said 67 PDVSA officials have been arrested, 18 of whom held high positions in the company. However, certain Chavista figures who have been sanctioned or criticized by the international community are absent from the list for unclear reasons.

Hugo Chavez’s protégé

On the afternoon of Tuesday, December 12, Attorney General Saab said the Public Ministry is opening a criminal investigation into “PDVSA Czar” Rafael Ramírez, who presided over PDVSA for 10 years. But the announcement comes one week after the Maduro regime reached an agreement with Ramírez that allowed him to resign as the country’s representative in the United Nations and subsequently escape to Ecuador.

The timing of the escape and exit from the UN have raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the investigations being carried out, especially because Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza reportedly accompanied Ramírez into hiding in Ecuador instead of taking him into custody.

Nicolás Maduro’s favorite nephew

Carlos Erik Malpica Flores served as National Treasurer as well as Financial Administrator to PDVSA until 2014, earning himself the nickname “narco-nephew” due to his reported involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering schemes that made use of the company’s federal bonds.

The allegations warrant an investigation from Saab as much as or far more than other individuals being investigated, yet the “favorite nephew” of the presidential family remains untouched.

Luisa Ortega Díaz, who served as Attorney General in Venezuela before being forced into exile, said Malpica Flores has more than 20 companies registered in Panama that he uses to carry out illegal operations with PDVSA. Each company opened in Panama, she said, was registered with an initial capital of uS $10,000.

Additionally, when Malpica Flores was National Treasurer, he reportedly ordered a payment of US $272,325 in 2014 to Pablo Iglésias, the leader of the Spanish Podemos party.

Iglésias received the money through a bank account on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Caribbean islands commonly used for their tax haven statuses — under the cover of payment for supposed “advisory services for the social development” of Venezuela.

Hugo Chávez’s Cousin

The “crusade” by Saab does not involve Asdrúbal Chávez, a cousin of the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías. The former Vice President of PDVSA worked closely with Maduro as well as former Minister of Planning Jorge Giordani.

Chávez has maintained direct involvement in Venezuelan oil since then. In 2003, he was appointed Executive Director of PDVSA Human Resources. In 2005, he served as executive director of the Venezuelan state. In 2007, he became PDVSA’s Vice President of Refining, Trade and Supply. In 2014, he was appointed Minister of Petroleum and Mining. Recently, Maduro named him President of the Citgo refinery.

Investigations by the Venezuela’s National Assembly revealed that PDVSA orchestrated bribes and markups on a series of decisions that generated loses for the state. Chávez was directly involved in the “Chinese drills” case, during which the Chinese workers were hired illegally through an “intermediary.”

Chávez has also signed contracts with Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company currently involved in multiple bribery scandals across Latin America.

The Attorney General himself

The illegitimate Attorney General Tarek William Saab continues to talk about a fight against corruption in PDVSA despite the fact that he may be implicated himself.

In July, the exiled Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz accused the President and Vice President of Constructora Conkor CA — Alejandro Josue Ruíz Mazzeo and Elías Ramón Koury Guevara — of connections to irregularities in contracts with PDVSA and other companies in the state of Anzoátegui.

Saab is reportedly linked to a network of PDVSA contractors and other government agencies that allegedly earned millions of dollars after the assignment of contracts that were overpriced, and had hand-picked clients — an issue currently being looked at by federal authorities in the United States.

PDVSA reportedly signed atound 12 contracts with Conkor, a company that belongs to Saab, Ortega Díaz said.

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