Ramirez was initially arrested in early 2018 for his alleged involvement in a decade-old scheme to siphon to a checking account within the tiny European nation of Andorra $2 billion from state-run oil large PDVSA.
On the time of the alleged crimes, PDVSA was beneath the course of his brother, former Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, a harsh critic of the socialist authorities he as soon as served.
Particularly, Fidel Ramirez, a medical physician who as soon as cared for the late Hugo Chavez, is accused of amassing 250,000 euros at an account at Banca Privada d’Andorra, or BPA, stemming from allegedly fraudulent medical providers he billed PDVSA by two corporations beneath different people’ names.
Banking authorities in Andorra, a mountainous nation wedged between France and Spain, intervened BPA in 2015 amid allegations from the U.S. Treasury Division that it had change into a central spoke for money laundering from government-connected elites in Venezuela, Russia and China.
Rafael Ramirez didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark and has been largely silent in current days on social media, the place he takes frequent jabs at Nicolás Maduro’s authorities and its repeated efforts to hyperlink him to corruption at PDVSA. The most recent try got here earlier this month when Saab, performing in response to complaints from the present oil chief, Tareck El Aissami, accused Ramirez of involvement in a $5 billion currency scheme i nvolving pretend loans to PDVSA from authorities insiders.
Ramirez was for years considered one of Chavez’s most trusted aides, charged with managing the world’s largest petroleum reserves at a time of hovering oil costs.
However when the late socialist icon fell ailing, finally dying of most cancers, he noticed his affect contained in the Bolivarian revolution fade as his rival Maduro tightened his grip on energy. He has referred to as the accusations in opposition to him in Venezuela a witch hunt taken in retaliation for his resolution to interrupt with Maduro, who he tried to unseat as president. Italy, the place Ramirez fled after resigning in 2017 as Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations, final 12 months rejected Venezuela’s extradition request, discovering that he would face political persecution if he was despatched again.
However Ramirez has additionally been on the radar of prosecutors in the U.S., having been named — however not charged — in an indictment partially unsealed in 2018 in Houston in opposition to 5 former PDVSA officers
The indictment alleges two of the charged people instructed businessmen that proceeds from bribes made in trade for fast funds and contracts can be shared with a senior Venezuelan official. That official was recognized within the unsealed portion of the indictment solely as “Official B.” The unidentified Venezuelan politician is Ramirez, a U.S. official instructed The Related Press.
Corruption has lengthy been rampant in Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves, however officers are not often held accountable — a significant irritant to residents, the vast majority of whom reside on $1.90 a day, the worldwide benchmark of maximum poverty.
Goodman reported from Miami