Narcotics "kingpin": US indicts Venezuela ex-vice president Tareck El Aissami

US indicts Venezuela ex-vice president Tareck El Aissami

The United States indicted Venezuelan industry minister and former vice president Tareck El Aissami on sanctions violations Friday, two years after naming him a narcotics "kingpin" for allegedly giving cover to drug traffickers.

Just last month, Alejandro Miguel Leon Maal - a Venezuelan-born American living in Florida who owns private charter company SVMI Solution LLC - allegedly helped fly El Aissami via private jet from Russian Federation to Venezuela, the court documents charge. El Aissami, Venezuela's former vice president, and Lopez Bello aren't in USA custody.

The indictment came as the U.S. steps up pressure on the embattled government of Maduro, who the USA has branded illegitimate.

Prosecutors say that Tareck El Aissami, who served as VP under President Nicolas Maduro two years ago, and business partner Samark Jose Lopez Bello violated the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act - which targets drug smugglers from other countries - when they hired United States companies to fly them across the globe by private jet as recently as February 23 of this year. The sanctions prohibited USA residents from providing services or engaging in transactions with the two men.

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Two U.S. citizens, Victor Mones Caro and Alejandro Miguel Leon Maal, used U.S. companies to provide the Venezuelans with charter flights, allowing them to travel from their home country to Russia, Turkey and the Dominican Republic, according to prosecutors.

Charges were unsealed Friday against a former Venezuelan vice president in NY federal court as authorities accused him of using his office to aid global drug traffickers.

The indictment covered activities by the two, along with four other men also indicted - three in Florida and one from Panama - that began in 2017 and continued through last week.

Even before the charges announced Friday, the US has accused El Aissami of playing a major role in global drug trafficking, a charge he denies.

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