Nephews of Venezuelan President Convicted on Drug Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) — The relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro face life in a U.S. prison after a jury convicted them of a cocaine-smuggling conspiracy on Friday night.
A little more than a year ago, federal prosecutors accused Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas — the nephews of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores — of trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Far away from their native Caracas, the men may never see freedom or return back home again. Their sentencing date has not yet been set.
The verdict fell moments after U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty excused the jury for the week, when the foreperson announced that they had reached a last-minute unanimity.
Authorities arrested Campo and Freitas in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince in November 2015, weeks before from Venezuela’s elections.
The Bolivarian republic contended from the beginning that the charges were political, a defense that endured throughout their trial.
Neither the Drug Enforcement Administration nor the men disputed that the arrest was a result of a sting operation, with undercover agents posing as the men’s suppliers.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement that emphasized their states of mind, rather than their actions.
“Today, a unanimous jury found Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas guilty of conspiring to traffic in massive quantities of cocaine,” he said. “As the evidence at trial established, the two men thought they would make millions of dollars sending hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to the United States. What they ended up with is a conviction in an American court and the prospect of years in federal prison.”
The language tracks that used in the opening arguments of Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove last week.
“They believed that they were so powerful in their country that they believed they could ship 1 metric ton of cocaine” to the United States, he said.
The defense attorneys said that the DEA entrapped their clients to embarrass a Latin American government that bucks Washington’s ambitions south of its border.
The trial exposed some of the seedy underbelly of the DEA.
One of the DEA’s informants was a major Honduran drug trafficker known as El Sentado, who was reportedly murdered in his country this past December.
The defense attorneys noted that two others from the DEA’s pool of informants pleaded guilty to running and using drugs, soliciting prostitutes and perjuring themselves while working for the agency.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office did not respond to a telephone request for comment by press time.

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