US federal authorities on Thursday charged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other top members of his administration — including officials from the military and judiciary branches in the country — with drug trafficking and narco terrorism.
The charges against Maduro, which were investigated by federal authorities in the US for years, were unveiled in a livestreamed press conference by Attorney General William Barr and other federal prosecutors.
“Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government,” Barr said in his remarks.
Maduro allegedly colluded with dissident members of the Colombian revolutionary group the FARC to traffic drugs into Central America and “flood” the United States with cocaine, according to his the charges against him, which were filed in the Southern District of New York.
Maduoro — who is not recognized as the president of the country by the Trump administration — allegedly helped manage and lead the so-called “Cartel of the Suns” to facilitate the drug trafficking, according to court papers.
Through the operation, Maduro and other high-ranking Venezuelan government officials supplied FARC drug traffickers with machine guns, rocket launchers and other weapons and provided them safe airspace to fly cocaine from Colombia into Central America.
Several shipments of cocaine that were flown into countries such as France and Mexico by the cartel were intercepted by authorities in the countries, prosecutors allege.
After one of the shipments was seized in Paris in 2013, Maduro canceled his scheduled appearance at the UN General Assembly and convened a meeting with his co-conspirators to scold them for using an airport outside of their typical routes to traffic 1.3 tons of powder.
The drug-trafficking conspiracy stretched back to when Maduro was serving as foreign minister in the country during the Hugo Chavez regime, prosecutors alleged in court papers.
In that role, Maduro allegedly accepted $5 million from FARC drug traffickers as part of a money laundering scheme for the group. Maduro then allegedly agreed to launder the $5 million and other money on behalf of the FARC.
Maduro is charged in the Southern District of New York with narco-terrorism conspiracy, conspiracy to traffic cocaine and weapons charges for handling machine guns during his alleged drug trafficking.
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