Courtroom sketch depicting Campo and Flores

The brother of Venezuela’s first lady reportedly set up an international cocaine trafficking deal that landed her nephews in US federal court, another indication that involvement in the drug trade reaches high levels of the Venezuelan government.

In a New York courtroom on September 8, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Sandalio Gonzalez testified that a confidential informant known as “El Sentado” received a call in October 2015 from a man named Bladimir Flores, who appears to be the brother of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores.

According to reports from investigative journalist Maibort Petit and the McClatchy news service, Gonzalez said Bladimir Flores told “El Sentado” that he would send Flores’ nephews Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas to meet with him to discuss a cocaine deal.

Court documents reviewed by InSight Crime describe “El Sentado,” also known as CW-1, as a well-known Honduran drug trafficker who began secretly cooperating with the DEA in May 2015 after being indicted on drug charges in the US.

Also in October 2015, presumably after receiving the call from Bladimir Flores, “El Sentado” contacted the DEA to alert the agency about the potential participation of the first lady’s nephews in a drug trafficking scheme.

The DEA then set up a sting operation that resulted in the nephews’ arrest in Haiti in November 2015. “El Sentado” was killed less than a month later in Honduras.

Both Flores and Campo have pleaded not guilty to the drug trafficking charges. The two men signed written confessions after their arrests, but their lawyers have argued that they were not properly informed of their rights. Prosecutors deny that this was the case.

In addition to Flores and Campo, the United States has also accused other high-level Venezuelan government figures of involvement in drug trafficking.

In August, for example, federal prosecutors unsealed drug charges against the former general director of Venezuela's anti-drugs agency, Nestor Luis Reverol Torres, and the former sub-director of that agency, Edylberto Jose Molina Molina. The next day, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro named Reverol to head the Interior Ministry.

InSight Crime Analysis

The previously unreported allegation that Cilia Flores’ brother put her nephews in touch with “El Sentado” revives questions about whether Campo and Flores were indeed the brains behind the trafficking operation, or whether other elements of the Venezuelan government were also involved. InSight Crime has previously raised the possibility that the nephews were serving as political cover for the Cartel of the Suns, a drug trafficking group composed of members of Venezuela’s security forces.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Cartel of the Suns

According to the DEA agent Gonzalez, Campo and Flores both denied that they needed to coordinate with Venezuelan government officials in order to ship drugs out of the country; they claimed they had special access to Caracas' Simón Bolívar International Airport due to their relationship with the wife of President Nicolás Maduro. However, in light of Gonzalez’s testimony, it seems increasingly implausible that Campo and Flores were the top figures in the alleged conspiracy to traffic some 800 kilograms of cocaine from Venezuela to the United States.

Investigations

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