U.S. blacklists two Venezuelan officials over former Citgo executives' trial

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump attends a multilateral meeting with Western Hemisphere leaders about Venezuela during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a Venezuelan judge and a prosecutor over their roles in the trial of six former executives of U.S. refiner Citgo sentenced to prison by a Venezuelan court last month.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it blacklisted the Supreme Court judge who presided over the trial of the six, Lorena Cornielles, and the prosecutor who represented the government of President Nicolas Maduro during the trial, Ramon Torres.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

A Venezuelan court in November sentenced the six former executives of Citgo to prison after finding them guilty of corruption charges.

The officials were arrested in November 2017 after being called into a meeting at the Caracas office of state oil company PDVSA, which owns Citgo. They were accused of crimes such as embezzlement, money laundering and conspiracy.

Venezuelan chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab on Twitter expressed “solidarity” with Torres and Cornielles, saying they had been sanctioned for “defending Venezuela from espionage, from the leaking of state information, and from negotiations to give away Citgo.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States “unequivocally condemns” the Venezuelan court’s conviction of the six and has called for them to be sent home.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Nick Zieminski; Additional reporting by Mayela Armas in Caracas; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis