The U.S. Blacklists Venezuelan Vice President as Drug Trafficker

Published: 15 February 2017

Tareck El AissamiVenezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami (Photo: EneasMx, CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Karina Shedrofsky

The United States government slapped sanctions on Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for playing “a significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Monday.

The decision came after a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act — a law that denies foreign narcotics traffickers access to the U.S. financial system — and “demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities," said John E. Smith, Acting Director of OFAC.

The statement said that El Aissami — who previously served as interior and justice minister and governor of the Venezuela’s Aragua state — controlled planes from a Venezuelan air base and drug routes through Venezuelan ports to facilitate shipments of narcotics from the country.

In his previous posts, El Aissami allegedly “oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela … including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States,” the statement said, adding that he also “facilitated, coordinated, and protected other narcotics traffickers operating in Venezuela.”

Mondays action also covers the vice president’s “primary front-man” Venezuelan national Samark Jose Lopez Bello, and nearly a dozen companies linked to Lopez Bello spanning the British Virgin Islands, Panama, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.

The sanctions prohibit anyone in the U.S. from doing business with the individuals or companies and freeze any assets they may have in the U.S.