Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro was charged with federal drug trafficking crimes as part of a far reaching U.S. investigation stretching from New York to Florida, officials said Thursday.
Attorney General William Barr announced the extraordinary action Thursday, saying that charges also were filed against more than a dozen other Venezuelan officials, including the country’s Supreme Court chief justice and the minister of defense.
Maduro’s government, authorities said, “betrayed the Venezuelan people to line their pockets with drug money.”
The years-long investigation, federal authorities said, revealed a government immersed in “corruption at the highest levels.”
The four-count indictment against Maduro was unsealed in New York and also named Diosdado Cabello Rondón, head of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly; Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, former director of military intelligence; and Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cordones, a former general in the Venezuelan armed forces.
“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, adding that Maduro and other officials “expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and well being of our nation.”
“The Maduro regime was propped up by a sham judiciary and a corrupt military,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said, adding that the defense minister authorized regular and enormous shipments of cocaine destined for the U.S.
In conjunction with the Justice Department action, the State Department announced a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Maduro and up to $10 million for other Venezuelan officials named in the indictment.
“These individuals violated the public trust by facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The payments are being offered through the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program.
This story will be updated….
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