Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 July 2020

Hezbollah, FARC and a Venezuelan lawmaker: US files charges over narco-terror plot

Prosecutors accuse the former parliamentarian of involvement in a scheme to recruit militants, smuggle drugs and plan attacks

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores greet supporters during his closing campaign rally in Caracas in 2018. Reuters, file
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores greet supporters during his closing campaign rally in Caracas in 2018. Reuters, file

US prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former Venezuelan parliamentarian for involvement in a scheme with President Nicolas Maduro linked to militant groups to traffic cocaine and military-grade weapons.

Federal prosecutors in New York also charged Adel Al Zabayar, a 56-year-old former member of Venezuela's National Assembly, with helping to recruit Hezbollah and Hamas operatives to plan attacks against US targets.

In court papers filed in Manhattan, prosecutors said that he worked with the Venezuelan criminal organization the Cartel de Los Soles, or "Cartel of the Suns" in English, and Colombian militant group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known by the acronym FARC.

"Al Zabayar was part of the unholy alliance of government, military, and FARC members using violence and corruption to further their narco-terrorist aims," Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement. "The Cartel de Los Soles sought to recruit terrorists from Hezbollah and Hamas to assist in planning and carrying out attacks on the US, and ... Al Zabayar was instrumental as a go-between."

US prosecutors indicted Mr Maduro and over a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials on charges of narco-terrorism and drug smuggling in March. Mr Maduro has dismissed the charges as a politically motivated fabrication by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

A US law enforcement official said Mr Al Zabayar was not in American custody.

Updated: May 28, 2020 03:23 PM

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