Venezuela’s National Anti-Corruption Police Detains 4 High-Level Officials, More Arrests Expected
Orinoco Tribune, March 19, 2023 — The National Anti-Corruption Police of Venezuela detained four high ranked officials in an special operation, as part of a new mission of the Venezuelan government against corruption at judicial, municipal, and industrial levels.
Among the detainees are Cristóbal Cornieles, president of the Caracas Criminal Judicial Circuit, and José Maxcimino Márquez García, 4th anti-terrorism judge of the Circuit.
The investigation against these officials stems from the release of Oswaldo José Cheremos Carrasquel, alias El Pelón Cheremos, a member of the notorious criminal gang Tren del Llano, on January 9. This information was released by General Domingo Hernández Lárez, head of the Strategic Operational Command of the Bolivarian National Armed Force (CEOFANB).
According to sources, the release of Cheremos Carrasquel was ordered by Mario Aquino, an assistant of the Caracas Criminal Judicial Circuit, who sent a message via WhatsApp to Judge Márquez García asking him to order the release of the criminal accused of illegal arms trafficking, among other crimes.
Subsequently, on February 15, Cheremos Carrasquel was recaptured at the headquarters of the Palace of Justice in Caracas, where he disclosed that he had bribed the judge in his case with $240,000 in cash and kind, to get the release order.
At the time of Cheremos Carrasquel’s recapture, members of the Bolivarian National Police seized a document that empowered a woman named Loreanny Mejía Díaz to manage all his assets. She is a secretary of PSUV deputy Antonio Benavides Torres, as Últimas Noticias reported at the time.
Another official arrested in the case is Pedro Hernández, PSUV mayor of the Santos Michelena municipality, Las Tejerías, Aragua state. He is being investigated for his alleged links with the criminal gang founded by Carlos Enrique Gómez Rodríguez, alias El Conejo, whose base of operations was the town of Tejerías. During the Operation Gran Cacique Guaicaipuro II, security forces recovered nine tanker trucks that were in the possession of El Conejo.
The fourth detainee is Joselit Ramírez, head of the National Superintendence of Cryptoactives (SUNACRIP) since 2018, who was removed from that position by President Nicolás Maduro, as announced by decree number 4,788, published in the Extraordinary Official Gazette 6,739, on Friday, March 17.
Ramírez is allegedly close to Tareck El Aissami, the Venezuelan oil minister. He was chief of staff of the Venezuelan Vice Presidency Office when El Aissami was in charge of that post.
SUNACRIP is in charge of transacting the petro, a Venezuelan digital currency backed by oil and minerals. Ramírez was arrested in an ongoing investigation on the disappearance of $3 billion from the sale of Venezuelan oil, currencies that presumably did not enter the state coffers.
The arrests began in late afternoon on Friday, March 17. Previously, the National Anti-Corruption Police issued a statement announcing that it had begun “a request to the Attorney General’s Office for judicial prosecution of a series of individuals who, violating the sacred oath of honesty… may be involved in serious acts of administrative corruption and embezzlement.” The statement refers to an unspecified number of “citizens who exercise functions in the judiciary, in the oil industry, and in some mayors’ offices.”
On Friday, President Maduro commented on the necessity for all public official, and especially ministers, to respect the ethics of public service. “The power that we have does not belong to us, it belongs to the people,” the president said a few hours before the news of the arrests broke.