Tareck el-Aissami [left], was appointed Vee-P last month by President Nicolas Maduro [Right]
US sanctions Venezuela new vice-president over ‘narco’ trafficking claims
Tareck Zaidan el-Aissami Maddah (el-Aissami), 42, was appointed Executive Vice President of Venezuela in January 2017
US Treasury Dept said el-Aissami oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions
The Venezuelan political heavyweight was previously the governor of Aragua state from 2012 to 2017, minister of the interior and justice, 2008 to 2012
OFAC expressed concern that being vice-president puts el-Aissami, who was indicted after years of investigation, in line to become Venezuela’s next leader
Venezuela’s new vice president Tareck Zaidan el Aissami Maddah has been sanctioned by the US treasury Dept over allegations of facilitating drug trafficking
The US has imposed sanctions on the new vice-president of Venezuela, accusing him of involvement in international trafficking of illicit drugs.
The order adds 42-year-old areck el-Aissami to the US narcotics “kingpin” sanctions list “for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking”.
Sanctions were also slapped on wealthy businessman Samark Bello, described as el-Aissami’s “primary frontman”.
Tareck Zaidan el Aissami Maddah was appointed last month by President Nicolas Maduro.
There was no immediate response from him or Mr Bello. but Mr Aissami has previously denied criminal ties.
The sanctions freeze the vice-president’s assets in the US and bar him from entering the country.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said the action is “the culmination of a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act to target significant narcotics traffickers in Venezuela and demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities” said John E. Smith, Acting Director of OFAC. Smith reiterated a drive to deny safe haven to narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the U.S.
Tareck Zaidan el Aissami Maddah [Left], seen here with late president Hugo Chavez, has held the Justice and Interior ministry portfolio in Venezuela
He has been accused of facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air bases, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela. In his previous positions, he allegedly coordinated, and protected other narcotics traffickers operating in Venezuela.
OFAC said the new Vice president oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.
El Aissami has been a major player in Venezuela politics for decades, while acting as ‘Godfather’ for the narcotics trade; it is alleged
Specifically, El Aissami allegedly received payment for the facilitation of drug shipments belonging to convicted Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled Garcia.
el-Aissami also is linked to coordinating drug shipments to Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, as well as providing protection to Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera Barrera and Venezuelan drug trafficker Hermagoras Gonzalez Polanco. Los Zetas, Daniel Barrera Barrera, and Hermagoras Gonzalez Polanco were previously named as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers by the President or the Secretary of the Treasury under the Kingpin Act in April 2009, March 2010, and May 2008, respectively.
El Aissami’s frontman was identified as Lopez Bello who served as his key frontman in the laundering of illicit drug trade proceeds. Lopez Bello is used by El Aissami to purchase certain assets. He also handles business arrangements and financial matters for el-Aissami, generating significant profits as a result of illegal activity benefiting el-Aissami.
Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan el-Aissami Maddah [Left], seen here with Vladimir Putin in 2010, previously served as interior minister and Justice minister
Mr El Aissami was previously the governor of Aragua state from 2012 to 2017, and served as minister of the interior and justice in Venezuela from 2008 to 2012. He was appointed Executive Vice President of Venezuela in January 2017
US media, citing leaked intelligence documents, say Mr el-Aissami has also been under investigation in the US for suspected ties to the militant group Hezbollah.
During his time as interior minister, fraudulent Venezuelan passports ended up in the hands of members of the Lebanese group, it is claimed. Earlier this month, 34 members of the US Congress sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for sanctions against Venezuelan officials.
They said that Mr El Aissami’s appointment as vice-president put him in line to become Venezuela’s next leader which, they said, was “troubling given his alleged ties to drug trafficking and terrorist organisations”.