United States: Relatives of Venezuelan President Convicted of Trying to Import Cocaine

Published: 21 November 2016

By Igor Spaic

A jury in New York found two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro guilty on Friday of attempting to import 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, both nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, were arrested in November 2015 in Haiti in an investigation that saw Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) informants pose as Mexican traffickers and meet with the nephews.

Lawyers for the two men had argued that US law enforcement had entrapped their clients, and Venezuelan first lady Flores denounced their arrest as a “kidnapping.” Prosecutors suffered a setback when one of their informants, who himself was jailed for trafficking cocaine while he worked for DEA, was caught lying on the stand.

Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores were found to have plotted to use a “presidential ramp” at an airport in Venezuela to send the drugs to Honduras, and then on to the United States.

Prosecutors said the profits from the multi-million dollar drug operation were intended to be used to fight against what the men saw as US backing of Venezuela’s opposition in elections held in December 2015. Maduro’s Socialist Party lost its parliamentary majority in the vote.