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Former minister accused of ‘mega fraud’ in Venezuela and compared to Brazil’s Lula da Silva

On Tuesday (Aug. 30), the Venezuelan government denounced a “mega fraud” at state-owned oil company PDVSA.

The company’s former minister and former president, Rafael Ramirez, was blamed for the US$4.85 billion hole in public coffers.

Ramírez was one of the closest confidants of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez but became a rival of Nicolás Maduro.

Rafael Ramirez. (Photo internet reproduction)
Rafael Ramirez. (Photo internet reproduction)

The accusation comes from Petroleum Minister Tareck El Aissami. According to him, PDVSA transferred several amounts (totaling US$4.85 billion) as payment for a loan taken out with Administrator Atlantic.

The debits were justified as loan installments agreed upon in February 2012, but the oil company would not have received a loan.

Atlantic would have forwarded the money to funds Violet and Vuelca, based in Panama, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.

Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab called the scheme a “mega fraud” and announced the launch of an investigation.

Ramirez has been the target of investigations into corruption practices at the state-owned company since 2017. One hundred former executives of the company have already been arrested.

On Tuesday (Aug. 30), PDVSA’s former vice president for finance, Víctor Aular, was one of them. He is described as the person responsible for signing the loan agreement with Atlantic.

Shortly before the plan became public, Ramírez warned on Twitter that Maduro’s government was ganging up on him.

Hours later, he published a series of posts protesting his innocence. According to Ramírez, “this fierce attack is the government’s response to my recently announced presidential candidacy.

They are afraid of Chávez’s chavismo in the streets as an option; now more than ever, we will organize and defeat them.”

The former minister also compared his situation to former socialist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) in the Lava Jato operation, the most giant corruption scam in Brazil’s history.

“Madurism is trying to do to me what the right-wings did to Lula da Silva, the same script, the same arguments, but none of it will stop us!”

“This strategy is called ‘lawfare’ and is used for political persecution in our region,” he said.

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