More than 40 people have been arrested in Venezuela in an anti-corruption drive sweep of state oil company PDVSA and other related government bodies, the prosecutor's office said Saturday.
The crackdown began on March 17 following a communique issued by the anti-corruption police, who called for the prosecution of officials who "could be involved in serious acts of corruption and embezzlement."
So far, the country's powerful oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, has resigned over the graft probe, while the anti-corruption drive has targeted officials in PDVSA as well as other public entities.
The prosecutor's office has so far arrested "42 subjects linked to various corruption schemes that have sought to embezzle... the national economy," Attorney General Tarek William Saab said on Twitter.
The most recent high-profile arrest was Pedro Maldonado, president of state-owned Corporación Venezolana de Guayana, as well as officials from metals firm SIDOR.
The officials were charged with appropriating public funds, money laundering, influence-peddling and treason, the prosecutor said during a March 25 conference.
Judicial sources told AFP that Maldonado, who was formerly director of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), was part of a corruption scheme led by former legislator Hugbel Roa.
Roa – who was arrested in this month's crackdown – was for years an important leader of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
El Aissami, who is under US sanctions, is also part of the ruling party and had previously served as Venezuela's vice-president, as well as minister of the interior and industry.
So far, the amount embezzled has not been disclosed, but press reports place it at least US$3 billion.