The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly is among those being investigated by US authorities for alleged cocaine trafficking and money laundering, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors are building cases against Diosdado Cabello and other high-ranking Venezuelan officials based on evidence provided by former drug traffickers, informants and defectors from the country’s military.
Mr Cabello is considered to be the second most powerful politician in Venezuela – he once briefly served as president – and agents claim to have strong evidence implicating him in a cocaine ring.
“There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel,” a Justice Department official told the Journal. “He certainly is a main target.”
The DEA would neither confirm nor deny any involvement in the investigation when contacted on Tuesday.
“They accuse me of being a drug trafficker without a single piece of evidence and now I’m the bad guy,” Mr Cabello said. “I feel offended, and none of them even said they’re sorry.”
Among the defectors who have provided information on alleged drug-related activities in the Venezuelan government is Leamsy Salazar, the former naval captain who told US investigators that Mr Cabello oversaw a massive shipment of cocaine from the Paraguana peninsula, the Journal reported.
Mr Cabello has said that Mr Salazar was an “infliltrator” and has no proof that Mr Cabello was involved in trafficking.
Aside from Mr Cabello, authorities are investigating former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, former director of military intelligence Hugo Carvajal, head of the National Guard Nestor Reverol, industry minister and head tax collector Jose David Cabello, and National Guard General Motta Dominguez.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is not under investigation.
Much of the information gathered by the investigators has been given by informants and defectors, who often are provided safe harbour in the US in exchange for their information. The DEA would not comment on the possibility of a source giving unreliable information in exchange for safe harbour.
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