Venezuelan intelligence spied on Citgo executives on US soil, spy alleges

CitgoVENEZUELAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES SPIED on executives of the Citgo Petroleum Corporation in the United States for at least a year, according to court testimony by a Venezuelan former counterintelligence official. The espionage targeted six executives of Citgo, a Texas-headquartered oil company owned by the Venezuelan government. The executives have been named as Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Jorge Toledo. Five of them are reportedly American citizens.

In 2017 the Venezuelan government accused the six executives of knowingly involving Citgo in a corrupt refinancing agreement, thus damaging the company’s financial wellbeing. They were arrested in Caracas and last year were given prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years. The United States government condemned the court proceedings for lack of impartiality, and late last year imposed sanctions on the judge and leading prosecutors in the case.

On Wednesday the Reuters news agency said it had reviewed court documents from the appeal of the so-called “Citgo Six”. The documents include testimony from Ramon Balza, who in 2017 was director of operations for the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). The DGCIM is the military counterintelligence agency of Venezuela. According to Reuters, Balza told the appeals court on August 11 that the DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence agencies have been monitoring senior Citgo officials “ever since [Citgo] became Venezuelan”. He added that the monitoring includes physical surveillance, as well as wiretaps.

Balza’s testimony suggests that DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence personnel spied on the six (and possibly other) Citgo executives on American soil prior to their arrest in 2017. It is also possible, says Reuters, that the espionage against the executives was carried out by non-diplomatic foreign agents of Venezuela.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 04 March 2021 | Permalink

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