May 23, 2018 / 8:26 PM / a month ago

Venezuela frees bank executives jailed for currency 'attacks'

CARACAS (Reuters) - The 11 executives of Venezuela’s top bank, Banesco SA, arrested earlier this month for allegedly “attacking” the OPEC member country’s rapidly weakening currency, have been released, chief prosecutor Tarek Saab said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO - A man walks out from a Banesco bank branch in Caracas, Venezuela May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Four female executives have been freed and seven male executives were being freed on Wednesday, Saab told local television channel Globovision in an interview.

“With that, they are all free ... but obviously our investigations are continuing,” said Saab, a former ruling party governor.

Banesco, whose chairman, Juan Carlos Escotet, also has Spanish nationality, confirmed the release and thanked former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for his help. Zapatero was in Venezuela on President Nicolas Maduro’s invitation to oversee Sunday’s strongly criticized presidential election.

“Banesco would like to publicly thank (Zapatero) for his tenacious and effective work, which achieved the liberation of the 11 executives of our organization,” said Banesco spokesman Jesus Escorche.

In the biggest crackdown on the financial sector since the administration of late leftist leader Hugo Chavez, the government of his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, in early May said it was taking over Banesco for 90 days and jailing its top executives.

Prosecutor Saab said his office also had launched four new investigations into state oil company PDVSA, but declined to offer specifics.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago, Vivian Sequera, Andreina Aponte and Corina Pons in Caracas; writing by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis

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