CARACAS May 23 Venezuela has arrested the
manager of the Petropiar heavy crude upgrader, owned by state
oil company PDVSA and U.S. major Chevron Corp
, for alleged "irregularities" in contracts awarded in
the oil-rich Orinoco Belt.
Francisco Velasquez was detained on May 13 and he remains
behind bars in the city of Barcelona, in the eastern state of
Anzoategui, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
"The investigation began in 2015, after a complaint by PDVSA
employees, who pointed out certain irregularities in the
awarding of contracts with over-pricing of goods or services,"
the statement read.
Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Velasquez.
President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government and
Petroleos de Venezuela SA, familiarly known as PDVSA, have
repeatedly vowed to take steps to combat corruption, which has
affected Venezuela and its oil industry for decades.
Opposition leaders have said PDVSA has been particularly
crippled by malfeasance under 18 years of socialist rule. They
say sporadic arrests are more the result of infighting among
rival government factions than a concerted effort to root out
A probe last year by the opposition-run Congress said $11
billion had gone missing from PDVSA. The government dismissed
that as part of a right-wing smear campaign.
PDVSA and Chevron, which has a 30 percent stake in
Petropiar, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Local media last year published photos from Velasquez's
Instagram account that appear to show him and his partner
enjoying a lavish life, complete with holidays in Rome and
Aruba, a house in the Dominican Republic, and a pink sports car.
The opposition says corrupt officials have enriched
themselves on the back of a decade-long oil boom, while the
majority of Venezuelans now struggle to eat three square meals a
day amid food shortages and spiraling inflation.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Matthew Lewis)