Caracas, Venezuela – A Venezuelan judge on Thursday found six US oil officials guilty of a sweeping corruption scheme and sentenced him immediately to prison.
The so-called Citgo 6 – an employee of the Houston-based Citigo Refining Company, owned by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA – was lured into Venezuela for a business meeting three years ago and arrested.
The men – Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Tomu Waddell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Jose Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira – are each jailed for more than eight years. There are five Venezuelan-Americans who have roots in Texas and Louisiana, and one permanent American resident, According to media reports.
Corruption in PDVSA has been a chronic and well-known problem for years and has helped to reduce its operations and profits. With the arrest of six people, President Nicolas Maduro’s government started a purse in Venezuela’s once thriving oil industry built on the world’s largest crude oil reserves. Later it arrested the former oil minister and the head of PDVSA Dozens of others.
Before he was sentenced, one of the officers, Mr. Waddell, who was imprisoned in Venezuela for three years, said in a letter provided to The Associated Press that he hoped for everyone to have a fair hearing so that He can clear his name and go. His family’s home in the United States. Mr. Waddell’s lawyer has remained innocent for the charges.
Mr Waddell, 61, said it was particularly painful to be separated during the thanksgiving session for his wife, three adult children and a newborn grandson, whom he never held.
“Before living this tragedy, these ceremonies were very special to our family,” he wrote, adding that he took a traditional American vacation after moving from Caracas in 1999 to Lake Charles, La., For a job with Venezuela-owned Citgo. hugged. . “Now, they hurt me a lot,” he said.
It was the first time either Mr. Waddell or any of the Citgo 6 spoke publicly after being arrested.
Mr. Waddell and five other Citgo officials were summoned to the headquarters of PDVSA, the parent oil company of Houston-based Citgo, Venezuela, for which they were told that there was a budget meeting on November 21, 2017. A corporate jet locked them in Caracas and was told they would be home for Thanksgiving.
Instead, a cadre of military intelligence officers flocked the boardroom, taking them to jail. His trial began four months ago and arguments were made on Thursday.
Mr. Waddell is kept in a Caracas prison named El Hellecide.
Despite his circumstances, he said, he hoped for a bright future.
“During the trial, the truth has proved to be indisputable,” he said in a four-page handwritten letter. “It proves that I am innocent.”