Venezuelan judge grants rare appeal to US oil execs jailed for alleged corruption

A Venezuelan judge has granted a rare appeal to six U.S. oil executives who were jailed for alleged corruption.

A court document shared with The Associated Press by a person familiar with the case showed that a judge scheduled an appeal hearing in the case to take place Tuesday in front of a three-judge panel.

Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano and Jose Pereira were convicted of embezzlement in 2020 in a trial riddled with irregularities. 

During their sentencing in 2020, a lawyer for one of the Citgo oil executives said the six men were caught in a geopolitical conflict.

The oil executives were lured to Venezuela for a business meeting that military officials crashed to arrest them.

A judge gave the executives more than eight years in prison. They were granted house arrest twice during their sentence, with the house arrest rescinded each time the U.S. angered Venezuela.

The oil executives were most recently taken off house arrest and sent back to prison after a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Alex Saab, was extradited to the U.S. in October.

Venezuela decried the extradition of Saab from Cape Verde to the U.S., calling it kidnapping. Saab is under trial for money laundering charges related to a bribery scheme in Venezuela. 

A recent court filing by one of Saab’s associates shows that Saab secretly met with the U.S. multiple times starting in 2017 to provide information about the Venezuelan government.

The AP noted that officials within Venezuela’s judicial system regularly act to advance Maduro’s political interests.

Tags Alex Saab Corruption in Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Venezuela

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