Neph­ews of Venezuela first lady guilty of US drug charges

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW YORK: A jury on Fri­day con­victed two neph­ews of Venezuela’s first lady of plot­ting to smug­gle 1760 pounds (800 kilo­grams) of co­caine into the United States, with Cara­cas say­ing the pair were es­sen­tially framed.

Efrain An­to­nio Campo Flores, 30, and Fran­cisco Flores de Fre­itas, 31, were ar­rested in Haiti in Novem­ber and flown to New York by US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion agents. Their week-long trial in fed­eral court in New York re­sulted in Fri­day’s guilty ver­dict for con­spir­acy to im­port co­caine into the United States as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion with the in­tent to im­port.

Lawyers for both de­fen­dants tried to ar­gue that the neph­ews were not crafty enough to plot or carry out the scheme and that they had fallen into a trap set by the DEA, in a covert op­er­a­tion in which $20 mil­lion was of­fered for the drugs.

Prose­cu­tors, how­ever, ar­gued that the men be­lieved they were above the law as rel­a­tives of Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro. The pair are the sons of brothers of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, who served as speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly from 2006 to 2011.

The cur­rent speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, Dios­dado Ca­bello, has likened their ar­rest to a kid­nap­ping by the DEA, say­ing they were ef­fec­tively set up. Sen­tenc­ing is set for March 7, ac­cord­ing to Judge Paul Crotty, with the crimes car­ry­ing a min­i­mum of 10 years to life in prison. —AFP

NEW YORK: In this Nov. 14, 2016 court­room file sketch, the drug trial of two neph­ews of Venezuela’s first lady pro­ceeds, from left, Fran­cisco Flores, with ear­phones and Efrain Campo, with ear­phones. —AP

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