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Former Venezuelan spy chief denies smuggling more than 6 tons of cocaine into Mexico, US

  • Retired Venezuelan Major General Hugo Carvajal, a close associate of the country’s late socialist president, Hugo Chavez, pleaded not guilty Thursday in a Manhattan court to drug-trafficking charges.
  • Carvajal, 63, is accused of smuggling 12,300 pounds (6.15 tons) of cocaine into Mexico in 2006 via his private jet.
  • U.S. Attorney Damian Williams accused Carvajal of “[importing] Poison for America,” in a statement referring to the “tons of potentially deadly drugs” Carvajal allegedly smuggled into Mexico.

A former Venezuelan spy chief and longtime adviser to the country’s late leader Hugo Chavez pleaded not guilty in a New York court on Thursday to decades-old drug-trafficking charges, a day after he was extradited from Spain.

Retired Major General Hugo Carvajal, 63, agreed to remain behind bars during an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court while his lawyers prepare a bail proposal to present to the judge who will handle his case. Prosecutors want him to stay behind bars.

Dressed in a white shirt and beige pants, Carvajal did not speak during the brief court proceedings except to acknowledge that he understood his rights and could listen to an interpreter.

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“Absolutely,” he said through the interpreter in response to her asking if he could hear the man through his earphones.

Carvajal was brought to the United States on Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy to counterterrorism, firearms and drug trafficking.

Prosecutors allege he used his high position to smuggle about 12,300 pounds of cocaine on a private jet from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006.

Retired Venezuelan Major General Hugo Carvajal pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges during an appearance in a Manhattan court. (AP Photo/Mano Fernandez, File)

U.S. Attorney Damien Williams said in a statement that Carvajal abused his authority as director of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency from 2004 to 2011 to “import poison into the United States” and use “tons of potentially lethal drugs.”

US Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram said in a news release that he “exploited his position for personal gain.”

Outside court, his lawyer, Zachary Margulies, had plenty to say about his client, who advised Chavez for more than a decade before rejecting Chavez’s handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, and instead siding with his U.S.-backed opponents.

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Margolis presented the U.S. prosecutors differently, saying he was not informed of any evidence such as text messages, emails, wiretapped conversations, jailhouse call recordings, surveillance video or physical evidence linking his client.

And he said it was unusual in a drug-trafficking case that “there is no evidence of unexplained wealth.”

“He is clearly innocent of these charges,” he said. “General Carvajal looks forward to contesting these outrageous charges in court before an impartial American jury.”

Standing outside the courthouse with defense attorney Tess Cohen, Margulies said prosecutors built their case entirely on false, uncorroborated statements by desperate drug traffickers and corrupt former Venezuelan officials with personal and professional grudges against General Carvajal.

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Carvajal’s extradition to the United States was long delayed, most recently by appeals. Arrested for the first time in Spain in 2019, he disappeared for two years while on bail after learning that the Spanish National Court was about to rule on his extradition. He was recaptured in September 2021.

Source by [Fox News]



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