Former oil minister accused of stealing $23 billion: Tareck El Aissami

In Venezuela, the case of the former oil minister accused of stealing 23 billion dollars came to light again; at the time, Nicolás Maduro said “he is an honest man, I don’t know him”.

For a long time, he was considered one of the heavyweights of Nicolás Maduro’s government, but the Venezuelan Prosecutor’s Office confirmed this Tuesday his fall in disgrace.

He is Tareck El Aissami, the man who held the oil power in Venezuela, and managed to sell the black gold by smuggling when sanctions were applied.

Tareck El Aissami, former oil minister accused of stealing $23 billion and former president of PDVSA, was arrested in a corruption case in the Venezuelan state oil company, Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek William Saab, said on Tuesday.

Although, he was held for a year in a residence in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base in Caracas, Venezuela.

In addition to the former oil minister accused of stealing US$23 billion, the Attorney General’s Office informed that former Finance Minister Simón Zerpa is also being held. Both are accused of leading a vast corruption structure within Venezuelan state entities.

The former oil minister accused of stealing US$ 23 billion had disappeared from the public scene a little more than a year ago after resigning from his post in the midst of a corruption scandal in the state oil company PDVSA, denounced by the authorities in March 2023.

Former oil minister accused of stealing $23 billion: Tareck El Aissami.

Maduro appointed El Aissami as Venezuela’s vice president in charge of economic management in 2017, when the country was sliding through the severe crisis of recent years.

His appointment was seen by analysts as a radical turn by the president towards a more hardline policy at a time when he was facing strong street protests and harassment from the opposition, then led by Henrique Capriles.

El Aissami soon showed signs of the line he would follow, and did not hesitate to call Capriles a “murderer” and label Maduro’s opponents as “terrorist and criminal right-wingers”.


The former oil minister accused of stealing 23 billion dollars was consolidating himself as one of the most prominent figures in the opaque web of Venezuelan power.

El Aissami was Minister of Interior Relations in the government of Hugo Chávez between 2008 and 2012, when he became governor of Aragua state.

His subsequent promotion to vice-president was interpreted as another step in Maduro’s attempt to surround himself with leaders closer to him than to the late President Hugo Chávez.

This Venezuelan of Syrian descent gained more and more power and influence. In 2018. he was appointed Minister for Industries and National Production, and in 2020 Minister of Petroleum, a position from which he would have control of the strategic state-owned oil company PDVSA, which had been shaken during the years of the Chávez and Maduro governments by several corruption scandals.

The US government included El Aissami, in 2017, in its list of leaders sanctioned for “playing a significant role in international drug trafficking”.

The former oil minister accused of stealing $23 billion was a deputy, vice minister, minister and then governor of Aragua state.

During his tenure as Chavez’s Minister of Internal Relations there were arrests of prominent drug trafficking leaders, but Venezuela continued to be plagued by violent crime, with one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

This Tuesday, Prosecutor Saab announced his arrest and that of Zerpa, as well as that of Samark López Bello.

The former oil minister accused of stealing 23 billion dollars, is charged with treason, appropriation or distraction of public patrimony, boasting or valuing relations or influence, money laundering and association.

According to the version of the Attorney General’s Office, he evaded administrative controls for the sale of oil and coke of Venezuelan state-owned companies, hiding his dealings through operations with cryptocurrencies.


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