Venezuela Detains Local President of Joint Oil Venture with China

Venezuelan authorities have arrested the president and two other officials in a corruption investigation at state oil company PDVSA’s Sinovensa joint venture with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), oil sector and intelligence sources said on Saturday, Reuters informs.

The three detainees, in the latest round-up in the struggling and graft-plagued oil sector, are Venezuelan. The detention of Sinovensa President Alberto Bockh in eastern Anzoategui state on Thursday was confirmed to Reuters by five PDVSA sources, an intelligence source and another person in the local oil sector familiar with the case.

Sinovensa had started an expansion project to boost output to 165,000 barrels per day (bpd), President Nicolas Maduro said in August, from a current capacity of 110,000 bpd.

Owned by PDVSA subsidiary Venezuelan Petroleum Corp (CVP) with CNPC, Sinovensa produces extra-heavy Orinoco crude and blends it with lighter oil to produce medium-grade Merey, Reuters noted.

Blended crude grades are widely sought in Asian markets, where PDVSA is increasingly sending its crude production following U.S. sanctions that have effectively halted sales of Venezuela oil to the U.S. market.

Venezuela last year sold CNPC an additional 9.9% stake in Sinovensa, leaving it with 49% ownership. Opposition leaders say PDVSA has been crippled by malfeasance under two decades of socialist rule, with sporadic arrests more the result of infighting among rival factions than a real effort to root out corruption.

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