Three Venezuelan sales executives for DirecTV have been jailed and charged by the Venezuala Supreme Tribunal of Justice with fraud and attempting to destabilize the local economy, Vice reports.
Last week, Venezuelan authorities arrested Carlos Villamizar, VP of strategy for DirecTV; Hector Rivero, general manager of DirecTV Venezuela; and Rodolfo Carrano, VP of commercial for DirecTV.
The arrest followed AT&T’s sudden pullout of DirecTV, which controls 44% of the local pay TV market.
AT&T said in a statement the decision to exit DirecTV from Venezuela was made because it was unable to reconcile compliance with respective U.S. and Venezuelan policies. Currently, tensions between the Trump Administration in the U.S. and the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro are high.
DirecTV, for example, was ordered by Venezuelan authorities in 2017 to censor 10 channels they said were critical of the Maduro regime. And last year, the local DirecTV operation was ordered to pull BBC and CNN after the networks ran news footage showing trucks running over protestors in Caracas.
In January, Associated Press reported that AT&T was being pressured by the Trump Administration to push back and restore the channels.
“Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DirecTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela, a decision that was made by the company’s U.S. leadership team without any involvement or prior knowledge of the DirecTV Venezuela team,” AT&T said in a statement.
Following this announcement, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ordered that all of the company’s assets in the country be seized.
Then came the accusations against the three executives by the Venezuala Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
AT&T joins Kellogg and General Motors as companies that have recently left Venezuela. Vice said that DirecTV had employed roughly 700 workers in the region and that DirecTV was servicing around 2 million local customers at the time of its departure.
The three jailed employees told the Venezuelan government they had no prior knowledge of AT&T’s plans.
AT&T has yet to issue a statement regarding its arrested employees.
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