HOUSTON (Reuters) – A former Citgo Petroleum Corp executive jailed in Venezuela for nearly five years is seeking $100 million in damages against his former employer alleging it helped set him up to be arrested and failed to defend him from spurious charges.
Tomeu Vadell and family filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in a Texas state court claiming Citgo sent him to Caracas when it knew “there was an extremely high risk” of harm. He was tortured in jail and he and his family were abandoned by the company, the lawsuit claims.
Five of the original seven executives seized in 2017 were freed last October in a deal involving the release of U.S. jailed relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. One Citgo detainee was released earlier and the seventh died in a Venezuelan jail.
“We greatly sympathize with Mr. Vadell for everything he and his family have been through,” a Citgo spokesperson said in a statement. “We disagree with this lawsuit, which irresponsibly equates CITGO, an American company based in Houston, with an authoritarian regime in Venezuela.”
Company officials “supported Mr. Vadell and his family in significant financial and other ways,” the spokesperson said.
Vadell and the other executives were summoned to a meeting at Venezuelan state-oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela , Citgo’s parent. They were held and later charged over a refinancing deal for Citgo that never went through. A Venezuelan court sentenced the executives in 2020 to prison terms ranging from eight to 13 years.
The case is Tomeu Vadell et al V. Citgo Petroleum Corp., Harris County District Court, No. 2023-17486
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Richard Chang)