(Reuters) - The former manager of Curacao’s Isla refinery and a consultant were arrested as part of an investigation over alleged corruption in a process to select a new operator for the 335,000-barrel-per-day facility, two sources said on Tuesday.
Former general manager Roderick van Kwartel and a company consultant, Ashley Isadora, were arrested on Monday, according to the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The executives were put on temporary leave last year and the selection process was paused during the investigation.
Van Kwartel and Isadora could not immediately be reached for comment.
Curacao aims to find a new operator for the refinery, currently leased by Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA but mostly idled since the firm has struggled to supply the island with oil amid U.S. sanctions imposed since January and mounting debts.
Isla’s new managing director Marcelino de Lannoy earlier this month told local media that the company continues looking for a new operator while working to restart the facility next month. De Lannoy did not return calls seeking comment.
PDVSA, which is still interested in operating the refinery from 2020 on, has not honored “enormous” debts to providers in the island, de Lannoy said, making it difficult to furnish crude to Curacao as the cargoes would face the risk of seizure, something that has happened in recent years.
Isla began a search for a PDVSA replacement after a dispute last year between the Venezuelan firm and U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips left the plant idled amid attempted asset seizures. Efforts to restart the plant have not lasted.
Earlier this year, it proposed sending teams to Britain and the United States to recruit potential operators, aiming to evaluate prospects in May and June and accept nonbinding proposals by July.
The investigation into the bidding process was opened last November after the refinery’s supervisory board received unspecified allegations over corruption. In December, Houston-based Motiva Enterprises was chosen as the “preferred bidder” for operating the plant, according to local media, but a deal was never reached and delays continued to affect the process.
Reporting by Sailu Urribarri in Jacksonville, writing by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama