Recordings reveal that the nephew of Venezuela's first lady bragged about his longstanding involvement in drug trafficking and his connections in Europe and Central America, raising the possibility that he was in fact an important player in the international drug conspiracy.
Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, one of the nephews of First Lady Cilia Flores who is on trial for conspiring to traffic cocaine to the United States, was recently heard telling a confidential informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that he has been trafficking drugs for over a decade, reported McClatchy.
"I'm 30 years old," he said. "I've been doing this work since I was 18."
The video and audio recordings played on the fourth day of trial also revealed Flores saying that he could obtain aircraft to transport the cocaine, and that he had connections to a French drug trafficker. He was also heard comparing the drug business in Europe and Central America, according to McClatchy.
Campo Flores and his cousin, Francisco Flores de Freitas, were arrested in Haiti in November 2015 and were quickly brought to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Flores' boasts contradict claims made by his lawyers on the first day of trial, when they called him and his cousin "very stupid men" who were "utterly clueless" about the illicit drug trade. The defense also argued that the DEA had set up a "trap" to catch the first lady's nephews.
If Flores was speaking the truth during his conversations with the DEA informant, that would suggest that he played an integral role in the drug trafficking scheme. In fact, prosecutors allege that the nephews planned on obtaining the drugs from Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), an indication that the nephews were well-connected not just in political circles but in drug trafficking circles as well.
SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles
The nephews' potential high-level involvement in the drug network's operations once again raises the question of who their accomplices may have been, and whether any of them were members of President Nicolás Maduro's inner circle. Several members of the president's administration have either been indicted by the United States or are currently under investigation.
Of course, it's possible that Flores was either overstating or outright lying about his drug connections and experience. A source within Venezuela has previously suggested to InSight Crime that the nephews were acting as political cover, rather than the brains of the operation. And the DEA's own informants were recorded expressing their surprise at how inexperienced the nephews seemed and their amateurish behavior.