Venezuela Attorney General Announces 9 Arrests in Corruption Crackdown

Venezuela's Attorney General Tarek William Saab/Photo: Reuters
Venezuela Attorney General Announces 9 Arrests in Corruption Crackdown

Tarek William Saab said that the current investigation, opened in the last 60 days, was neglected by the former attorney general.

Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced that a total of nine people have been detained due to charges related to import fraud, adding that 26 corporations have been uncovered committing similar crimes.

The detention of shareholders in the Azucarera Rio Turbio company in the state of Lara was announced during a press conference by the attorney general. Those jailed include Gabriel Peña Riera and Maria Margarita Cigala de Muñoz, according to Venezolana de Television.

The crimes are related to the importing practices of the company, which was awarded a contract to import raw materials between 2004 and 2017 amounting to US$156 million dollars.

The defendants are alleged to have implemented over-invoicing practices charged to the Venezuelan state. Hence, they have been charged with illicit obtainment of foreign currency, use of false public documents, association to commit crime and other offenses.

Saab noted that Peña Riera and Cigala de Muñoz, along with six other people, were detained this week. While eight other arrest warrants have been issued, the attorney general reported that La Pastora Central Sugar Company is subject to a government search and seizure order.

Saab also announced that Miguel Angel Zambrano, director of the sugar mill, was arrested in the anti-corruption roundup.

The company is accused of incurring an overestimation of 230 percent in the import of raw sugar in bulk, acquired US$1.3 million dollars in U.S. currency and committed crimes involving forged weight records.

Belky Josefina Hurtado Reyes, a board member and partner of Importadora Zaidelys C.A., was arrested for committing import simulation processes from 2012 to 2013 and over-invoicing.

Felix Jimenez Silva and Rafael Carrasquero Vadell, partners of the Losopar Pharmaceutical Presentation House, a firm deemed a ghost company by public investigators, were both arrested for illicit over-invoicing of up to 300 percent in refined cysteine imports.

During his statements, Saab showed documents linked to individuals who requested the services of a law firm owned by Jose Parra Saluzzo, which account for the connections of that office with the corruption network that operated in the previous attorney general’s administration led by Luisa Ortega Diaz, according to Agencia Venezolana de Noticias.

Saab reiterated that the current investigative processes, opened in the last 60 days, was neglected by the former attorney general.


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