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Venezuelan opposition investigating alleged corruption amounting to US$69b

[CARACAS] Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature is investigating 89 alleged cases of corruption involving currrent and former government officials amounting to US$69 billion, lawmaker Freddy Guevara said on Thursday.

"It's possible to buy basic necessities for 900 million people with that money," he said. "It can feed the entire country for 30 years."

Mr Guevara is chairman of the National Assembly's comptroller committee, which conducts inquiries into financial dealings.

He brought up Venezuela's major shortages of food and medicine, the result of a severe economic crisis wracking the country thanks to the drop in global prices for oil, the main national export.

The money has been deposited into accounts abroad, Mr Guevara said, adding that the goal is to "locate where it is" and "repatriate it."

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The investigation is examining several sectors, including food and health, as well as irregularities linked to Venezuela's tight currency controls since 2003.

Illegal foreign exchange transactions have siphoned off some US$60 billion, Mr Guevara said.

The probe is also looking into state oil company PDVSA, which has diverted at least US$7 billion, he added.

President Nicolas Maduro announced a process of "review and correction," including combating corrupt practices, following his party's crushing defeat in parliamentary elections in December.

But the socialist leader says allegations of inefficiency and corruption are merely part of an opposition maneuver to bring down his government.


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