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Venezuelan court to hear Citgo-6 case






By Patricia Garip / Argus

Petroleumworld 11 12 2021

Six Citgo executives jailed in Venezuela are scheduled to go before a Caracas appeals court on 16 November, four years after they were detained on questionable grounds.

Venezuela's judicial system is controlled by President Nicolas Maduro, so the rare appeal of their November 2020 conviction has raised cautious hope among family members of a breakthrough in the case.

The appearance of the executives, known as the Citgo-6, before a three-judge panel will coincide with deliberations next week by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention -- part of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights -- in the case of Tomeu Vadell, one of the six who were lured back to Caracas from Houston in 2017 and taken into prison for alleged irregularities surrounding a debt-refinancing proposal, according to sources close to the discussions.

Citgo, the US refining arm of Venezuelan state-owned PdV, has been controlled by Maduro's US-backed opponents since 2019. The company has taken an arms' length approach to the Citgo-6, but in August the company's chief executive Carlos Jordá [told Argus] that the case is a "political ploy" by Caracas.

In mid-October, the executives were returned to prison after several months of house arrest, in apparent government retaliation for the extradition to the US of Maduro operative Alex Saab from Cape Verde. On the same day, Maduro's delegation pulled out of negotiations with the opposition in Mexico.

Five of the six executives are naturalized US citizens, including former board members and vice presidents Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, and brothers Jose Luis and Alirio Zambrano. The sixth, former Citgo acting president Jose Pereira, is a permanent US resident.

In a statement today, Mr. Vadell's family reiterated his innocence and said the 62-year-old career engineer "has been unjustly incarcerated in extremely harsh conditions" and "must be unconditionally liberated immediately," adding that he "went to work and was never allowed home, stripped from his family and forcibly removed from his work though he technically remains an employee of CITGO."

The judges who will hear their appeal are Carmen Teresa Betancourt Meza, Evelyn Borrego Navarro and Anny Marchese.

Houston-based Citgo has three refineries, two on the US Gulf coast and one in Illinois, with total capacity of around 760,000 b/d.

Citgo's two Delaware-based holding companies — PdV Holding and Citgo Holding — are the targets of multiple bondholders and arbitration claimants seeking redress on billions of dollars in unpaid debt by PdV and the Venezuelan government.


By Patricia Garip from Argus Media 11 12 2021



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