Venezuela's prosecutor to charge PDVSA executive in vehicle corruption case

CARACAS (Reuters) - The Venezuelan state prosecutor’s office said on Monday it would charge a high-level executive at state oil company PDVSA under the country’s anti-corruption law in a case involving overcharging and improper use of vehicles.

The corporate logo of the state oil company PDVSA is seen at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello

After an investigation, prosecutors said there was evidence that Orlando Chacin acquired cars through a “handpicked” contracting committee. The prosecutors claim Chacin overpaid for the cars and that he also paid for them in foreign currency instead of the local bolivar currency specified in the tender.

The office added that one of those vehicles was assigned to Chacin for personal use. It requested Chacin and his lawyers appear on Friday to be formally charged.

Prosecutors did not provide any further details such as who received the excess funds or the dollar amount involved.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chacin did not respond to an email.

Chacin, a geophysical engineer, was vice president of exploration and production for PDVSA until late January when he was demoted to an internal director amid a broader overhaul.

Although Chacin will be the highest-ranking state oil executive to be charged in a corruption case in Venezuela, the case could face internal political hurdles.

The prosecutor’s office is clashing with the leftist government, and the chief prosecutor has said she expects to be fired after accusing President Nicolas Maduro of human rights violations and erosion of democracy.

PDVSA’s reputation has been tarnished in recent years by corruption investigations that have involved high-profile staff. The company has acknowledged the problem, but said they are the work of a few individuals.

Last year, the opposition-led congress said that some $11 billion was lost at PDVSA during the period in which Rafael Ramírez was in charge of the company between 2004 and 2014. Ramírez denied the allegations.

Reporting by Diego Oré, Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker