Venezuelan ex-officials indicted over alleged drug trafficking links

Two former leading officials of Venezuela’s anti-drugs agency have been indicted in a US federal court on charges that they helped drug traffickers move their product in exchange for bribes, in the latest action by US authorities against people closely linked to the Venezuelan government.

In an indictment filed in Brooklyn federal court, US prosecutors said Nestor Reverol, who was removed as the chief of the National Guard last month, and Edylberto Molina, a military attache posted in Germany, allegedly took bribes from drug traffickers when they were the director and deputy director, respectively, of the National Anti-Drugs Office.

From January 2008 to December 2010, Reverol, 51, and Molina, 53, allegedly alerted traffickers to future drug raids or the locations of law enforcement officers, prosecutors said in the indictment dated January 2015, but unsealed on Monday.

The two men also allegedly obstructed investigations to allow drugs to leave Venezuela ultimately bound for the United States, arranged for the release of people arrested in drug cases, and for that of cash and drugs seized by law enforcement, prosecutors said.

Reverol headed the National Guard militarised police force until he was replaced on 8 July. Announcing Reverol’s removal, President Nicolás Maduro said he would find “new tasks” for the major general, whom he thanked “for his work, dedication, honesty and morals”.

Reverol and Molina “used their positions of power to enable drug trafficking organisations, all the while hindering law enforcement’s efforts to thwart them”, said James Hunt of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Simply put, the indictments send a message that there is no difference between a drug trafficker and a drug trafficker who leads anti-narcotics trafficking efforts,” he said in a statement announcing the unsealing of the indictment.

Reverol and Molina are the latest individuals close to Maduro who have been targeted by US law enforcement agencies on drug related charges. Two nephews of Maduro’s wife face charges of conspiracy to import 800 kilos of cocaine into the US after they were arrested in Haiti in November. US prosecutors said in court documents filed last month that the two men, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, and Efraín Antonio Campo Flores, 29, had confessed to DEA agents on the flight between Haiti and New York.

According to the DEA records, Campo Flores said they planned to get the cocaine from an individual who was in turn supplied by the Colombian leftist rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). Last week, the Miami Herald reported that at least two DEA informants linked to the case had been killed after the nephews were arrested.

At least five other former Venezuelan officials have been charged in the US courts with drug-related crimes, including the former head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service and of the investigative police force, CICPC.

The US state department’s annual report on drugs said that Venezuela had become one of the main transit routes for illegal drugs from South America, in part because of its porous border with Colombia, the world’s top producer of cocaine, but also because of its “weak judicial system, sporadic international counter-narcotics cooperation, and permissive and corrupt environment”.

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