World

DEA: Nephew sold drugs to fund Venezuelan first lady’s campaign

Francisco Flores, center in blue shirt, and Efrain Campo, second from right, during their initial appearance in Manhattan federal court in November. The pair are charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs to the U.S.
Francisco Flores, center in blue shirt, and Efrain Campo, second from right, during their initial appearance in Manhattan federal court in November. The pair are charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs to the U.S. AP

Just moments before gun-wielding, masked officers stormed into the Haitian hotel to arrest him, the nephew of the Venezuelan First Lady talked with confidential informant about using the profits from a $20 million drug deal to help his “mother’s” congressional campaign, according to the informant’s testimony.

Efrain Campo, 29, who with his cousin Francisco Flores, 30, has been charged with conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S., acknowledges in recent court documents that he lived with the powerful first lady, Cilia Flores, and presumably Nicolas Maduro, the current Venezuelan president. A sign of how close he is to the family, Campo refers to himself as the first lady’s “stepson.”

Give me a minute to meet with my friend.

DEA confidential informant

The close relationship between the defendant and the first family has been one of the most dramatic subplots in the complex drug case that has torn at the already tenuous diplomatic relations between the United States and Venezuela. Cilia Flores, a lawyer and leader in the Venezuelan National Assembly, accused U.S. agents of kidnapping her nephews.

The defense has sought to paint Campo and his cousin as victims of a U.S. political plot against the Venezuelan government and that they didn’t have the knowledge or capability to pull off such a complicated transaction.

On Nov. 10, Campo, Francisco Flores and a confidential informant posing as a leader of the Sinaloa cartel, met at a Port-au-Prince hotel restaurant where they went over details of their upcoming drug deal, prosecutors said. Toward the end of the meeting, the confidential informant testified that he excused himself from the table to go upstairs to get the $20 million that the cousins would use to fund their aunt’s campaign.

“Give me a minute to meet with my friend,” the informant said he told.

In his alleged confession to DEA agents, Campo tried to walk back what he said about funding Flores’s campaign for the National Assembly.

“I know I said that but in reality it was for me,” Campo said, according to the confession.

According to court documents, Campo said they planned to get the cocaine from Colombian rebels. Asked why he got involved in the deal, Flores said: “To make money.” Flores said the deal was worth $5 million, of which he’d expected to get $560,000.

  Comments