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In Rare Move, Venezuelan Judge Grants Hearing To Jailed Citgo Executives

A Venezuelan judge has granted a hearing at an appeals court for six Citgo oil executives who were imprisoned four years ago on corruption charges in a rare move for the country.

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed source familiar with the situation that the judge had scheduled the hearing for next Tuesday in front of a three-judge panel.

The six U.S. executives at Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-held oil firm PDVSA, were detained by Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela in November 2017. The so-called ‘Citgo 6’ sat in jail two years after their detention.

Back then, U.S. authorities requested that its nationals be released, but Maduro refused, saying, “These are people born in Venezuela, they’re Venezuelan and they’re going to be judged for being corrupt, thieving traitors.”

The charges were embezzlement and a proposal to refinance billions in Citgo bonds, the AP recalls. The Venezuelan president also accused them of treason and said they would be tried as traitors. The executives were convicted to between 8 and 13 years in jail last year.

Venezuela arrested the six executives as part of a corruption sweep at an event in Caracas in November 2017. Maduro said a week later that all six—five of whom are U.S. citizens and one holding a permanent residency permit for the United States—would be tried as traitors.

In 2019, the government released the detained executives and put them under house arrest. Only two months later, however, the police rounded them up again and returned them to prison.

Then, earlier this year, the detainees were once again released into house arrest. Unnamed sources told media at the time that was a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Nicolas Maduro government amid a review of U.S. policy towards Venezuela by the Biden administration.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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