June 01, 2020

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Venezuela detains head of PDVSA’s lubricants unit VASSA
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Photo courtesy of VASSA

Venezuela has arrested the president of Aceites y Lubricantes Venezolanos, S.A. (VASSA), Oscar Rafael Aponte Landaeta, on corruption charges, according to Reuters. VASSA is the lubricants business unit of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). VASSA became a subsidiary of PDVSA after its predecessor, Industrias Venoco C.A., was nationalized in 2014.

The restructuring committee named by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro accused Aponte Landaeta of involvement in several irregularities. including diverting lubricants, greases and sulfonic acid to other states of the country, and then smuggling these items abroad, said the Communiqué, released Tuesday by the state oil company.

In addition, he was accused of fraudulent contracting of a company for the acquisition of goods and supplies, the collection of commissions for overpriced transport service contracts, and the irregular use of the company’s facilities for his own and third-party commercial purposes, according to the Communiqué.

In this regard, Venezuela’s Public Ministry has initiated a criminal investigation. Reuters said it could not immediately reach Aponte Landaeta for comment or determine if he was being represented by an attorney. 

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil or information ministries immediately responded to Reuters’ requests for comments.

The move comes amid a shakeup at PDVSA after Maduro last month named a committee to restructure the OPEC member’s oil industry, which is struggling under U.S. sanctions designed to force Maduro’s ouster, as well as years of mismanagement, corruption, and declining cash flow.

Last week, authorities detained two managers in PDVSA’s supply and trading division, later accusing them of collaborating with the U.S. government.  Relatives of the two managers arrested last week denied the allegations against them, arguing they were being singled out for fighting against corruption within PDVSA.

In addition, the Venezuelan government has moved to seize the assets of six private shipping agents over debt owed to PDVSA.

Separately, intelligence police raided the homes of several current and former executives of PDVSA’s Colombian petrochemicals subsidiary Monomeros named by opposition leader Juan Guaido, Reuters said.

Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly who is recognized by the United States, Colombia and dozens of other countries as the South American country’s legitimate president, last year wrested control of Monomeros from Maduro and named his own interim board.

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