September 5, 2017 / 6:55 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela arrests top oil executive, eight other PDVSA employees: sources

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has arrested the state oil company’s boss for the western region and eight other executives at PDVSA, according to an internal company memo and a half-dozen sources in the OPEC member’s oil industry.

It was not immediately clear why Gustavo Malave and the other employees were apprehended, though a series of corruption probes are under way at PDVSA and have entangled other employees.

The sources said Malave was arrested on Monday in Zulia state, Venezuela’s traditional oil-producing region near Colombia, in what would be one of the highest-profile detentions of a PDVSA executive.

PDVSA, the prosecutor’s office, and Malave did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Venezuela’s new chief prosecutor Tarek Saab on Thursday announced he was investigating “spectacular” overpricing in a dozen contracts in the nation’s Orinoco oil belt, on the other side of the country.

The reputation of PDVSA - short for Petroleos de Venezuela SA - has been tarnished in recent years by graft investigations involving high-profile staff.

The company has blamed the problems on a small group of employees and executives, and promised a war on corruption.

Last year, the opposition-led congress said $11 billion was lost at PDVSA between 2004 and 2014, when Rafael Ramirez was in charge of the company. He denied the allegations.

The Caracas-based company is the financial motor of leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s government, but is reeling from low oil prices, mismanagement, and lack of investments.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrea Ricci

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