February 28, 2020 / 10:41 PM / a month ago

Two PDVSA executives arrested by Venezuela's intelligence agents -sources

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Venezuelan intelligence agents on Friday detained two executives from PDVSA’s supply and trading division, three company sources said, just over a week after President Nicolas Maduro appointed a commission to restructure the state-run oil company.

Under growing pressure due to U.S. sanctions on PDVSA and its main business partner, Rosneft Trading, Maduro last week ordered the nation’s economy vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who is under sanctions himself, to lead a committee to reorganize the company.

Maduro said he would accept no more excuses from PDVSA’s workers, including reasons related to sanctions, to justify its performance, and declared an “energy emergency” in the country.

In one of its first decisions, the commission appointed a lieutenant colonel with no apparent industry experience, Antonio Perez Suarez, as vice president of PDVSA’s supply and trading division. It is yet unclear if other vice presidents who were asked to resign are still in office.

The executives detained, Aryenis Torrealba and Alfredo Chirinos from supply and trade’s operations, left the company in handcuffs according to two of the sources. Torrealba is also a board member of PDVSA’s refining unit in Europe, Nynas AB.

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil or information ministries immediately responded to requests for comment. It was not immediately clear which intelligence police body acted.

The arrests occurred after the commission last week demanded employees from the supply and trading division close accounting books. Following similar action in the financial department, its vice president, Fernando De Quintal, was called to testify before PDVSA’s internal affairs department, according to the sources.

Since a board led by Manuel Quevedo, a major general from the National Guard, took PDVSA’s reins in 2017, detentions and probes against employees over corruption or wrongdoing have not been unusual. But little evidence has so far been made public to demonstrate culpability.

The most notable cases occurred in late 2017 when Nelson Martinez and Eulogio Del Pino, former PDVSA presidents, were arrested on corruption charges. Martinez died while in state custody in 2018. Del Pino remains in prison, as do six other top executives from PDVSA’s U.S. refining unit, Citgo, who were arrested in 2017.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas Editing by Matthew Lewis

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