×

UPDATE 1-Venezuela arrests acting president of U.S. refiner Citgo

(Adds confirmation on Pereira arrest, context)

CARACAS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities arrested the acting president of its U.S.-based refiner Citgo and five of the subsidiary's top executives on corruption accusations, the chief prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Authorities detained Jose Pereira during an event at state oil company PDVSA's headquarters in Caracas, two sources told Reuters earlier on Tuesday, in another high-level arrest of an investigation shaking up the OPEC member's oil industry.

Prosecutor Tarek Saab has said he is leading a "crusade" against "organized crime" within PDVSA. Since taking office in August, he has arrested around 50 oil managers in the widening graft operation.

In the case of the Citgo arrests, Saab said his office had uncovered a $4 billion planned deal with foreign firms that would have seen Citgo "unfairly" indebt itself and even be offered as guarantee for the loan.

"This board of directors put Citgo in danger. That's corruption, corruption of the most rotten nature," Saab said in an announcement on Tuesday morning.

It was not immediately possible to contact Pereira or the rest of the arrested executives. Citgo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Nicolas Maduro's government and PDVSA, which is formally known as Petroleos de Venezuela SA, have repeatedly vowed to take steps to combat corruption.

Opposition leaders say PDVSA has been crippled by malfeasance under 18 years of socialist rule. They attribute the arrests to in-fighting among rival government factions rather than a genuine desire to root out corruption.

Sources close to PDVSA also said the arrests owe more to turf wars for control of the company, which is the financial motor of Venezuela's ailing economy. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Susan Thomas)