WASHINGTON: Two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady admitted being part of a cocaine smuggling scheme in a US sting operation before their arrest last year, according to recently filed court documents.
Details of the alleged confessions by Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freita were recounted in documents US prosecutors filed Friday in the US federal court in Manhattan.
The two—sons of brothers of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores—were arrested in Haiti in Nov. 2015 and flown to New York by US Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
The pair is accused of plotting to smuggle at least five kilos (11 pounds) of cocaine into the United States. They were also accused of taking part in meetings to plan a shipment of cocaine to the United States via Honduras.
The newly released court documents show how Campo and Flores and others worked together to try to send hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Venezuela to Honduras so that the drugs could be imported into the United States.
The drugs were purportedly to be bought by Mexican drug traffickers, who were in fact sources acting under instruction from the DEA.
During recorded meetings in Venezuela, Honduras, and Haiti, the defendants discussed transporting multiple loads of cocaine via private aircraft, the papers said.
The defendants understood that the narcotics would end up in the US in transactions “that they hoped would generate millions of dollars in proceeds.”
US officials believe much of the cocaine produced in Colombia passes through Venezuela before being transported to the United States and Europe.
During an October meeting with DEA sources, Campo described connections to the Venezuelan government and later stated, “we’re at war with the United States… with Colombia… with the opposition,” according to the documents.
The defendants, rather than the DEA, initiated the drug trafficking activities at issue in the case, prosecutors said.
The two men were arrested in Haiti at the request of the DEA, and taken into custody by the agency.
During the November 10 flight to the US, Campo and Flores waived their rights to remain silent “and confessed to participating in a conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States,” the papers said.
The Spanish-speaking defendants have argued that their post-arrest statements were involuntary and the result of an impermissible interrogation because they did not fully understand their US rights.
Campo and Flores are scheduled to stand trial on the charges on Nov. 7. If convicted they face up to life in prison. They have pleaded not guilty.