ROME (AP) — Italy’s highest court confirmed Friday that Venezuela’s former oil czar cannot be extradited to face corruption charges at home because of his country’s record in violating human rights, his Italian lawyer said.
The Court of Cassation upheld a lower court’s ruling in September which recognized that Rafael Ramirez enjoys international protection as a refugee, lawyer Roberto De Vita said in a statement.
Ramirez, the longtime head of Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company, fled to Italy after falling out with President Nicolas Maduro and resigning as Venezuela’s United Nations ambassador in 2017. Soon after, Venezuela’s chief prosecutor ordered his arrest on charges of bankrupting the country’s primary source of income.
Ramirez has called the Venezuelan probe a retaliation for his decision to break with Maduro, whom he has accused of running Venezuela’s once-thriving oil industry into the ground and abandoning the socialist ideals of the country’s late leader, Hugo Chavez.
Ramirez, a Venezuelan citizen, was given refugee status in Italy and his lawyers argued that he would face political persecution if he was sent back.