The indicted nephews of Venezuela's first lady were described as simple-minded and inexperienced by defense lawyers during their first day of trial in the United States, who are also attempting to depict the high-profile case as being politically motivated.
Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas were arrested in Haiti in November 2015 and indicted on drug related charges by the United States. November 7 marked the first day of their trial and saw the defense's attempt to steer the focus towards the current diplomatic context between the United States and Venezuela.
Speaking about their clients, the defense lawyers said that "these very stupid men thought that they could gain up to $50 million in cash without delivering drugs," reported El Pitazo. Campo Flores' lawyer, John Zach, added that his "client is utterly clueless" about the drug trade, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to describing their clients as naïve and inexperienced in drug-related activities, the defense raised questions concerning the legitimacy of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) informants, who are also drug traffickers that participated in the sting operation in order to reduce their own prison sentences.
The lawyers also pointed to the current tense diplomatic relations between the United States and Venezuela, affirming that the case was politically motivated, and that the DEA had "tricked these guys. They set them up."
The defense also stated that the nephews had armed bodyguards because they were afraid of falling victim to the rampant crime in Caracas.
InSight Crime Analysis
The lawyers' depiction of their clients as foolish and inept may carry significant political ramifications. The nephews' apparent inability to set up the drug trafficking scheme does not necessarily entail that they were framed by the DEA. It would indicate, however, that they were not the masterminds of the operation, thus raising the sensitive question of potential Venezuelan accomplices, including within President Nicolás Maduro's administration.
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There is a already a growing amount of evidence of high-level drug corruption in Venezuela. In August, the US government indicted Venezuela's former anti-narcotics chief, Néstor Reverol, who was promptly promoted to Interior Minister by Maduro. And US sources have suggested to InSight Crime that authorities may be holding on to additional sealed indictments of Venezuelan officials.