March 4, 2020 / 7:59 PM / a month ago

Venezuela detains head of PDVSA lubricants unit amid shakeup

CARACAS, March 4 (Reuters) - Venezuela has arrested the head of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela’s lubricants division on corruption allegations, according to a statement read on state television on Wednesday.

The move comes amid a shakeup at the company after President Nicolas Maduro last month named a committee to restructure the OPEC nation’s oil industry, which is struggling under U.S. sanctions designed to force Maduro’s ouster as well as years of mismanagement, corruption, and declining cash flow.

Last week, authorities detained two managers in PDVSA’s supply and trading division, later accusing them of collaborating with Washington. And the government has moved to seize the assets of six private shipping agents over debt owed to PDVSA.

In the statement, the restructuring committee named by Maduro accused Oscar Aponte, the president of PDVSA’s VASSA engine oil and lubricants division, of involvement in contraband of the company’s products and collecting commissions on overpriced transit contracts.

Reuters could not immediately reach Aponte for comment or determine if he was being represented by an attorney. Relatives of the two managers arrested last week denied the allegations against them, arguing they were being singled out for fighting against corruption within PDVSA.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Luc Cohen, and Mircely Guanipa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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