Rosales, who went into hiding three weeks ago, has denied the charges, calling them a "political lynching" and motivated by Chavez's desire to intimidate opponents.

Chavez criticism

Venezuelan authorities say that Rosales is unable to explain $60,000 in income and accuse him of embezzling the funds and avoiding attempts to bring him to justice.

Luisa Ortega, the Venezuelan attorney general, said last week that a Caracas court had granted a state prosecutor's request to freeze property held by Rosales to ensure the state could recover any allegedly embezzled money.

She also urged Rosales to come out of hiding and face justice.

However, the case has sparked allegations from the opposition that Chavez, who last year vowed to jail Rosales, is using the legal system to crack down on opposition leaders who won key posts in last November's elections for governors and mayors.

In February, Chavez won a referendum permitting him to run for office indefinitely and has since stripped control of ports and roads from opposition allies.