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US could intervene over Citgo arrests

WASHINGTON could intervene in Venezuela’s arrest of six state petrol firm executives after it emerged they hold US passports.

Jose Angel Pereira and five vice-presidents were arrested on Tuesday, charged with making refinancing deals on the US subsidiary of state oil firm PDVSA on disadvantageous terms in return for kickbacks and selling oil ministry secrets to the US.

But two anonymous sources told the US Associated Press news agency that the men held dual citizenship, giving the US State Department the right to intervene on their behalf.

A State Department statement said that, having arrested US citizens, Venezuela must provide information of the arrests to the US at their request and US officials must immediately request a visit.

Citgo owns a chain of petrol stations across the US and refineries in Illinois, Texas and Louisiana.

In August, the White House banned US firms from buying PDVSA or Venezuelan government debt bonds and blocked Citgo from repatriating its profits.

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez revealed that the intermediary between financiers Frontier Management Group and Apollo Global Management was the Mangore Sarl firm, owned by Florida-based Venezuelan Juan Carlos Gudino.

He said that Mangore Sarl had received sums of $40 million and $50m (£30m and £37.5m) from the two US companies and “deposited them in Switzerland and from there paid the commissions to these corrupt prisoners.”

President Nicolas Maduro named former oil minister Asdrubal Chavez, cousin of late president Hugo Chavez, as new Citgo boss.

Of the six accused, he insisted: "They are Venezuelans and they will be judged as corrupt thieves and traitors of their country."

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