The Attorney General of Venezuela, Tarek Saab, has arrested two businessmen and the former manager of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). The three men are charged with corruption in connection with oil development projects in the Orinoco Oil Belt.
Reuters reports that the two of the accused men are Manuela Sosa, a television actor who was close to one of the daughters of the late President Hugo Chavez, and Pedro León, the former general manager of the Orinoco Belt.
The Orinoco Oil Belt contains Venezuela’s largest oil reserves. Oil Sands Magazine, an industry magazine based in Canada, compared the Orinoco Oil Belt with the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada. First, the warmer climate “means much less energy is required to bring the oil to a flowing temperature.” Second, the oil is more concentrated and more uniform. Third, it is located at a more optimal depth for extraction.
Corruption in public works projects has been a consistent issue in Venezuela. The reports by the United States Department of Justice in December 2016 on the Odebrecht corruption scandal revealed the extensive nature of bribery and corruption in the country.
Between 2007 and 2014, $98 million the Brazilian construction conglomerate, Odebrecht S.A., paid $98 million in bribes in Venezuela. According to the Department of Justice’s report, Odebrecht spent more than $800 million in bribes from which it reaped $2.4 billion in benefits. It is unknown how much Odebrecht benefited from corruption in Venezuela since the Venezuelan government has so far not cooperated with international investigators.
Attorney General Saab’s predecessor, Luisa Ortega, announced in August that she had proof that linked Maduro to the Odebrecht scandal. According to Reuters, Ortega said the evidence implicated Maduro and high ranking officials in the Socialist party. She did not reveal her evidence but did call on the international community to investigate.
President Maduro and PDVSA officials have previously pledged to combat corruption.