Opposition leader Juan Guaido (L) is locked in a battle with President Nicolas Maduro (R) for control of Venezuela (AFP Photo/Federico Parra , Leo RAMIREZ)
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that executives appointed to boards affiliated with state oil firm PDVSA -- in a bid for control by opposition leader Juan Guaido -- face criminal prosecution.
The court -- packed with Maduro loyalists -- ordered legal action against 15 executives that the National Assembly, headed by Guaido, named on Wednesday to form four new executive boards for PDVSA and its US-based affiliate Citgo.
Guaido -- who has been recognized as acting president by more than 50 countries -- is locked in a battle with Maduro for control of the crisis-hit country.
Guaido celebrated the appointments as a "step forward in the reconstruction of PDVSA," but Maduro had warned that those accepting "illegal" appointments would face justice.
The high court ruled that the executives were named by a legislature whose decisions are "null," and that the appointees should face prosecution for crimes including "usurpation," "corruption," "organized crime" and "terrorism."
The Supreme Court decision set in motion the process of extraditing the accused, most of whom are in the United States, and freezing their accounts.