Former Venezuelan Oil Minister and Vice President Arrested for Corruption

Published: 11 April 2024

Tareck El Aissami PortraitTareck El Aissami served previously as the Oil Minister and Vice President of Venezuela. (Photo: ZiaLater, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Venezuelan authorities have detained the former vice president of the country for having allegedly embezzled up to US$21 billion from the state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

Tareck El Aissami also held several ministerial positions in the governments of former President Hugo Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro. Apart from him, police also took into custody Simón Alejandro Zerpa, the former minister of economy and finance and former president of the National Development Fund, and businessman Sarmark Lopez, according to Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab.

The three are facing charges of treason, appropriation or diversion of public assets, and money laundering, among other crimes.

An investigation into the conduct of top officials of three state institutions, including the country’s oil and gas company PDVSA, found that they had used their positions to carry out illegal oil sales and then laundered the proceeds through crypto operations and real estate.

A total of 54 people have been charged in the PDVSA case, including other top officials.

"The objective and purpose of this mafia, headed by Tareck El Aissami, was none other than to destroy the national economy," stated the Attorney General.

Tareck El Aissami was sanctioned in 2017 by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for playing “a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” He allegedly supervised or partially owned drug shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States.