U.S. agents have arrested two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady for allegedly trying to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to published reports.
Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas were arrested in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday night, after arriving in the country on a private plane, according to former DEA official Michael Vigil, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Both Campo and Flores were traveling on diplomatic passports but don’t have diplomatic immunity, Vigil said.
They were immediately flown to New York and will appear before a federal judge Thursday, the reports said.
Campo Flores, 29, is the nephew of Cilia Flores, the powerful wife of President Nicolas Maduro. The second man also identified himself as the first lady’s nephew.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the men had contacted a DEA informant in Honduras and asked for help transporting the cocaine. They later brought a kilogram of cocaine to show to an informant, in a meeting that was filmed and taped by DEA agents.
The Journal reported that U.S. officials have been pursuing allegations of drug trafficking and money-laundering by “a number of high-ranking Venezuelan officials”:
“The arrests come as prosecutors in New York, Washington and Miami are pursuing numerous investigations into alleged drug-trafficking and money-laundering activities of top Venezuelan military, police and government officials, according to U.S. officials.
“U.S. officials have long said Venezuela is the main transit point for cocaine from next door Colombia. Caracas routinely denies allegations that it is involved in drug trafficking, characterizing them as efforts to destabilize its leftist government.”
The Journal said those under investigation include Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly.
Reuters notes that word of the arrests comes at a sensitive time:
“The news may tarnish Maduro’s image as he heads toward legislative elections in December that are expected to be among the most difficult for the ruling Socialist Party due to the OPEC nation’s ongoing economic crisis.”