US Jury to Decide on Drug Conviction for President Maduro’s Nephews
This Friday begins the deliberations of the jury, which could hand out a decision to the two relatives of the Maduro family as severe as life in prison.
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If the jury does not decide unanimously, the judge of the case has the final word. He will have up to 90 days after the verdict to announce his decision.
On the last day of the trial, the US Attorney’s Office delved into the experience of the defendants, while defense lawyers appealed to the jury’s feelings.
“The two cousins, whose Aunt Cilia Flores is married to Maduro, were not naive victims of a US conspiracy, but instead were eager and enthusiastic companions who worked methodically for months on a complicated drug operation through which they sought to gain at least 20 million dollars that would be used to help boost his aunt’s campaign and solidify the power of the family in the country,” said the prosecutor.
The basis of the prosecution’s arguments has been that the defendants tried to exploit their political connections by using the presidential hangar at Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar International Airport to send massive cocaine shipments to the US.
The defense said its clients were “induced, deceived and trapped” by corrupt US informants.
On the last day, the Attorney General’s Office referred to all the recordings in their possession of Efrain Campo, Franqui Flores and their confessions at the moment of being arrested.
“Flores said he would make $560,000 in the deal,” the prosecution said. “Both acknowledged that the drug was going to the United States.”
Campo claimed to have total control of the presidential hangar.
“Even the generals and colonels could not interfere with who he was,” a report said.
In one of the recordings that was aired during the trial, Campo was heard saying, “I have been doing this work since I was 18 years old.”
Flores and Freitas were formally charged with conspiracy charges for importing cocaine into the United States, and for knowingly manufacturing and distributing cocaine with the intention of it being imported into the United States.
The nephews of the Venezuelan presidential family were arrested on November 10, 2015 by the Haitian police and then extradited to the United States.
The chief witness for the prosecution was found to be lying, and was sentenced to life in prison. However, it was determined that the reports and evidence offered by him were legitimate, so the recordings, audio and videos were left on the record.
During the trial, the US Attorney’s Office revealed the contents of the defendants’ cell phones, including photographs of the nephews with weapons and selfies in front of private airplanes.
Deputy Diosdado Cabello was mentioned several times during the trial. In an audio recording, the drug dealing nephews indicated that he is the most powerful man in Venezuela and presumably has control over the National Armed Forces. Reference was also made to his alleged connection with the Cartel de los Soles.
In another recording, one of the nephews boasts about having been trafficking drugs since he was a teenager.
Campo Flores was heard saying that he had to schedule a meeting on a day when he was not working on his mother’s campaign. He also mentioned the possibility of extending the operation to Canada, since they had a cousin there they could do business with.
Flores appeared manipulating a kilo of white powder in one video, and is seen talking on a radio with one of his bodyguards asking for a knife to open the package.
The nephews were heard boasting that they have control over the presidential hangar at the Simón Bolívar Airport in Maiquetía.
Freitas was heard confessing that Cilia Flores wanted to be a deputy and later to be governor of the state.
Freitas said he would earn US $560,000 for helping fund the first lady’s political campaign.
Lawyers for the nephews of the first lady of Venezuela Cilia Flores said in the trial that they “are too stupid” to carry out that operation, so they always maintained that they were victims of a trap.
Defense lawyers alleged that the nephews did not intend to ship cocaine to the United States, but rather sought to steal USD $20 million from confidential informants.
The Venezuelan shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti, who paid the legal fees for the nephews, said he did it because the case “disturbed the tranquility” of Nicolás Maduro and because he was “helping to preserve the constitutional Government of Venezuela.”