The United States has sanctioned a Venezuelan judge and prosecutor involved in the November trial and sentencing of six former oil managers known as the Citgo 6.
The State and Treasury departments made the announcement Wednesday in the case of the former executives, who had been accused of corruption.
In a press release, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the six have been “unjustly imprisoned in Venezuela since November 2017 after being lured to Caracas under false pretenses.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “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.”
The six say they had been called to Venezuela for a business meeting but were arrested on the charges. They all pleaded not guilty.
Five of the men were sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison; another received a 13-year sentence.
“These proceedings were marred by a lack of fair trial guarantees and based on politically motivated charges, and media and human rights groups were denied access to the trials,” said Pompeo.
Those sanctioned by the U.S. include Judge Lorena Carolina Cornielles Ruiz and prosecutor Ramon Antonio Torres Espinoza, whom the State Department said presided over a “kangaroo court.” The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets the two may have and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
The Reuters news agency quoted Venezuelan chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab as saying via Twitter that Cornielles and Torres were sanctioned for “defending Venezuela from espionage, from the leaking of state information, and from negotiations to give away Citgo.”
Citgo is a Venezuelan-owned oil company whose corporate headquarters and main refinery are in Texas.