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Venezuela’s former oil minister Tareck El Aissami, once a powerful confidant of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro, has been arrested on corruption allegations, the government announced on Tuesday.

Former finance minister Simón Zerpa and Sarmark López, a businessman and associate of El Aissami, were also arrested as part of the probe into corruption at state oil major Petróleos de Venezuela, a critical source of government revenue.

Attorney-general Tarek William Saab on Tuesday said El Aissami and his co-conspirators were involved in an illegal scheme to directly manage shipments of crude in avoidance of US sanctions, without sending the payments through the country’s central bank. They also speculated on currency markets, Saab said.

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