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Venezuelan intelligence services have arrested two local employees of Chevron, Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources. The reason for the detention has not yet been established.
Neither the company, nor the Venezuelan authorities or PDVSA were willing to comment on the report, but a Chevron statement said the company is working to make sure its employees are safe. “Our legal team is evaluating the situation and working towards the timely release of these employees,” the company said.
According to two of Reuters’ sources, the arrests followed a disagreement between the two Chevron employees and representatives from PDVSA about procurement processes.
Venezuela is in the middle of an anti-corruption sweep that last year saw the authorities arrest six executives from PDVSA’s U.S. branch, Citgo, including its president and five senior executives. To date, more than 60 people have been arrested, two of which were former oil ministers, Bloomberg notes, adding that until the Chevron arrests, no employees of foreign companies operating in the country had been targeted.
Earlier this year, Caracas announced it was launching a lawsuit against a Miami-based company owned by commodity giants including Vitol, Trafigura, and Glencore, on allegations that it provided insider information to a number of large trading companies that made billions of dollars by buying oil products at below market prices.
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Now that the sweep has reached Chevron, chances are that foreign company employees are no longer safe from detention under the corruption operation, which the opposition says has political rather than any other motivation.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s parliament, which is controlled by the opposition but stripped of any actual power, has given a group of judges permission to try President Maduro for corruption. The trial started earlier this week in Bogota, Columbia, where the so-called Supreme Court in Exile resides, and is likely to only have a symbolic meaning since neither the Supreme Court nor the Venezuelan Congress have any enforcement authority.
Congress is accusing Maduro of soliciting bribes from Brazilian Odebrecht during his 2013 election campaign. The allegations come from now former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who said Maduro asked Odebrecht for US$50 million in exchange for securing contracts for the construction major.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.