The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan judge and prosecutor behind the conviction on corruption charges of six American oil executives.
The six employees of Houston-based Citgo were lured to Caracas just before Thanksgiving in 2017 on the pretense of attending a business meeting. Once there, they were hauled away from the headquarters of Citgo's parent company, state-run oil company PDVSA, by heavily armed, masked security forces., accused of promoting a never-executed proposal to refinance some $4 billion in Citgo bonds by offering a 50% stake in the company as collateral.
The so-called Citgo 6, all but one a U.S. citizen, were finally convicted last month and sentenced to between 8 and 13 years in prison. President Nicolás Maduro has accused them of “treason.”
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Presiding over the trial were Judge Lorena Cornielles and prosecutor Ramon Torres, who as a result of Wednesday's action will be blocked from doing business in the U.S. and have any bank accounts or property there seized.
“The unjust detention and sentencing of these six U.S. persons further demonstrates how corruption and abuse of power are deeply embedded in Venezuela’s institutions,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States remains committed to protecting its citizens and targeting those who contribute to the illegitimate Maduro regime’s usurpation of power in Venezuela.”
The six men are Tomeu Vadell, José Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas and José Pereira.
“We just spent a fourth Christmas without our loved one, Tomeu,” the Vadell family said in a statement. “It’s sad to see more suffering come of all this, but these sanctions are in direct consequence of the judge and prosecutor condemning innocent men and prolonging their hostage-taking.”