Former Citgo oil executives jailed in Venezuela

© Agence France-Presse

Six former executives of Citgo -- the US-based subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA -- have been sentenced to jailtime in Venezuela

Caracas (AFP) - Six US-connected former oil company executives have been sentenced to between eight and 13 years in prison, Venezuela's Supreme Court said Thursday.

Washington has repeatedly asked Caracas to release the men, who worked for Citgo, the US-based subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

They were first arrested in November 2017 and accused of crimes including money laundering.

The company's former president, Jose Pereira Ruimwyk, a Venezuelan national with US residency, was jailed for 13 years and seven months on charges including embezzlement and conspiracy, the court said. He was also fined $2 million.

The other five men, all of whom were company directors and dual US-Venezuelan nationals, were each jailed for eight years and 10 months.

One of the men's lawyers told AFP his client intended to appeal the ruling.

The families of the six men contest the charges, saying Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro controls the judiciary, which they say is notorious for corruption.

US Democratic Party heavyweight Bill Richardson, who has managed international negotiations for a number of high-profile American detainees, traveled to Venezuela in mid-July and met with Maduro.

He managed to get two of them released and put under house arrest, but the rest remained at the national intelligence agency's headquarters in Caracas.

Roger Carstens, the US envoy for hostage affairs, said in June all six men were "in mortal danger", with several displaying Covid-19 symptoms. 

The United States is one of a number of nations that no longer recognizes Maduro as Venezuela's president. Since early 2019, it has been trying unsuccessfully to oust the leftist leader, who presides over a crumbling economy from which millions have fled.