After years of pursuing a trio of former Venezuelan officials in major drug-trafficking cases, the U.S. government is offering tens of millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to their arrests.
The three ex-Venezuelan officials are accused in Miami federal court of exporting cocaine from Colombia and extorting bribes from drug smugglers in exchange for protecting them. The former high-ranking officials have been wanted for more than five years.
The U.S. Department of State said Tuesday it is offering rewards for information on:
Pedro Luis Martin-Olivares, 53, a former top economic official in the Venezuelan Intelligence Service, was indicted in 2015 on charges of smuggling cocaine into the United States and intending to distribute the drugs on an aircraft registered in the United States. The reward for his arrest: up to $10 million.
Rodolfo McTurk-Mora, 58, the former head of Interpol in Venezuela, was indicted in 2013 on charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and with impeding the prosecution of narco-trafficker Jaime Alberto Marin Zamora by delaying his extradition. Through his official position, McTurk-Mora solicited bribes from traffickers arrested in Venezuela to prevent their extradition to the United States. The reward for his arrest: up to $5 million.
Jesus Alfredo Itriago, 62, the former chief of counter-narcotics of a criminal investigative agency in Venezuela, was indicted in 2013 on a charge of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. The reward for his arrest: up to $5 million.
“Corrupt Venezuelan officials who lined their pockets by protecting drug traffickers from detection and arrest enabled the entry of enormous amounts of dangerous drugs into the United States,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in a statement.
Keith Weis, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami, said that “the rewards for information leading to their whereabouts and capture will add another significant level of pressure” to bring them to justice.
The announcement of the reward offers comes six months after the U.S. Justice Department accused Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and several other government officials of turning Venezuela into a narco-state by collaborating with a leftist Colombian guerrilla group that exported tons of cocaine to the United States.
An indictment, filed in New York, accuses Maduro and other current and former officials in his socialist regime of conspiring with the U.S.-designated terrorist group known as the FARC, so that Venezuela could be used as a base for narcotics shipments smuggled on flights and boats through Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The rebel group financed its long-running civil war against the Colombian government with the drug proceeds.
The U.S. State Department is offering up to $15 million for information leading to Maduro’s arrest.
Charged along with Maduro were Diosdado Cabello, a former president of the National Assembly who is considered the second most powerful political figure in Venezuela; Hugo Carvajal, a former director of military intelligence who is believed to be at large in Spain; and Clíver Antonio Alcalá, a former general in the Venezuelan armed forces, and two senior FARC leaders.
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