Venezuela detains tax official in corruption probe

Top tax collection official detained in Venezuela in alleged corruption case

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A top official at Venezuela's tax collection agency has been arrested on suspicion of corruption and cash worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was seized from an apartment, President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday.

Maduro said in televised comments during a visit to the western state of Lara that the National Integrated Service of Tax Administration official was detained Wednesday evening.

He did not identify the person by name but said a search of a "luxurious" flat in eastern Caracas turned up the equivalent of about $630,000 in bolivares, Venezuela's currency.

Maduro used a phrase that translates roughly as "caught with their hand in the cookie jar."

"I am announcing a battle against corruption. ... Do you think we can move toward socialism ... with corrupt people like this?" Maduro said.

Two weeks ago an official at the agency that oversees pricing was also arrested, on suspicion of extortion and illegal weapons possession.

Maduro's government has said entrenched corruption is one of the nation's biggest problems over the decades.

However, opposition leaders charge that graft only got worse during the 14 years that the late President Hugo Chavez was in office, and accuse authorities of doing little combat it and even profiting themselves.

"They want us to believe there's an iron hand against corruption," recent opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said on Twitter. "If that were the case, there would be no government! It's pure appearance!"

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