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Back-to-back scoops on US oil execs jailed in Venezuela

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Caracas, Venezuela, reporter Scott Smith used months of source development and dogged reporting to break two same-day scoops for AP on the sensitive case of six U.S. oil executives who have spent the last three years jailed in Venezuela on charges of corruption and embezzlement.

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CITGO oil executives, from left, Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano stand outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service in Caracas, Venezuela, in an undated photo posted on Twitter, June 18, 2020, by Venzuela’s foreign minister. – Twitter post by Jorge Arreaza / Venezuela Foreign Ministry via AP

Denied access to the men’s trial, Smith met regularly with their attorneys, sent a letter to the “Citgo 6” and was put in touch with the family of Tomeu Vadell, one of the jailed men.

His persistence led to two news breaks: the release of an exclusive letter by Vadell — the first words by any of the men since their 2017 arrest — and later that day, the judge’s decision finding them guilty of corruption.

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