CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan authorities arrested two financial executives, including the brother of an ally of President Hugo Chavez, for alleged links to a scandal that prompted the government takeover of seven banks, prosecutors said Sunday.
Arne Chacon, a brother of Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon, and Giuzel Mileira were arrested Saturday, the Attorney General's Office said.
The announcement came after the government took over management of Central Banco Universal, Baninvest Banco de Inversion and Banco Real, citing violations of banking rules.
They are the latest of seven banks where the government has intervened in a widening scandal that has put Chavez on the defensive. Government opponents seized on it to accuse the former paratrooper-turned-president of failing to crack down on corruption and cronyism involving top-ranking government officials and their private-sector associates.
Chacon was president of Banco Real, while Mileira worked as the bank's assistant director and accounting manager. Four others have also been detained, including Milagros Vivas, an assistant director of Banco Real. Prosecutors said Chacon and Mileira would soon appear in court.
Chavez denies links to the implicated bankers and vows to prosecute any bankers who break the law.
In a newspaper column published Sunday, Chavez did not address Chacon's arrest, but called those involved in the scandal "revolting rats that wear ties" and predicted that they will end up in prison.
"Here, white-collar delinquents go to jail," he wrote.
Chacon was appointed as a director of both Baninvest and Banco Real earlier this year after they were purchased by businessman Pedro Torres Ciliberto, and he was a shareholder in both banks.
Neither Chacon nor any of the other bankers implicated in the scandal has responded publicly to the allegations. Calls to the Science and Technology Ministry went unanswered Sunday.
Venezuela's banking regulatory agency objected to Torres' purchase of Central Banco Universal and froze that transaction several months ago, saying he had not been able to show the origins of the funds used to buy it.
Authorities also have arrested businessman Ricardo Fernandez, who led a group of investors that recently bought four banks initially shut down by authorities: Canarias, Confederado, Bolivar and ProVivienda (BanPro).
Those four banks were bought in September and October by a group of investors headed by Fernandez, who had a lucrative business selling food to a network of state-run subsidized markets known as Mercal. Authorities say Fernandez illegally used clients' savings deposits to purchase one of the banks, Canarias.
Two of those banks, Canarias and ProVivienda (BanPro), are to be permanently shut and their assets sold off.
Fernandez and his lawyer, Jose Camacho, are charged with misappropriating deposits and providing loans to other businesses in which they were investors. Efforts to reach both have been unsuccessful.
The government's actions against the banks have provoked major withdrawals from some banks, forcing them to seek loans from other institutions. Government officials have guaranteed deposits up to insured limits and called for calm, saying the country's financial sector is not at risk of collapsing.