Caracas — Venezuela said on Thursday it had arrested 11 top executives of the country’s leading private bank, Banesco, for "attacks" against the country’s rapidly depreciating currency, the struggling oil cartel Opec nation’s latest move against the private sector.
The oil-rich nation is suffering hyperinflation and a steady collapse of the bolivar currency, which President Nicolás Maduro attributes to an "economic war" but his critics say are the result of incompetence and failed socialist policies.
"We have determined the presumed responsibility [by the executives] for a series of irregularities, for aiding and concealing attacks against the Venezuelan currency with the aim of demolishing the Venezuelan currency," said chief prosecutor Tarek Saab in a televised press conference.
He did not provide evidence or take questions. Reuters was unable to immediately obtain comment from Banesco.
Banesco’s president, Juan Carlos Escotet, has been the frequent target of criticism by ruling party heavyweight Diosdado Cabello, who recently announced that the government was buying Banesco, a claim Escotet then denied. Escotet lives in Spain.
Venezuela maintains exchange controls under which the government provides hard currency at an official rate, which is currently 69,000 bolivars to the dollar. But greenbacks are fetching about 800,000 on black markets, which government officials have, for years, harshly criticised but broadly tolerated.
Hyperinflation has turned the once-powerful banks into warehouses of useless cash that are worth a total of only $40m, according to a recent Reuters analysis of regulatory data.
The detentions come on the heels of the shock arrests of two Venezuelan executives working for US oil major Chevron after they refused to sign a supply contract for furnace parts drawn up by state oil company PDVSA without a public tender.