Two nephews of Venezuela's First Lady who were charged with cocaine trafficking last year confessed they got the drugs from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to new court documents filed in New York on Friday.
The two men, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 29, made the comments to undercover informants working for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) prior to their arrest in Haiti in November 2015, as well as later to federal agents, prosecutors say in the documents.
Flores and Campo are the nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, They have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to import 1,760 lbs (800 kilos) of cocaine to the United States, and could face up to 30 years in prison.
The court filing includes a photograph of Campo appearing to handle a brick of cocaine with plastic gloves during a meeting with the informants in Caracas. They were part of a court filing by prosecutors in response to defense motions to throw out confessions by the two men to federal agents.
The case is one of a series of investigations by U.S. authorities linking alleged drug traffickers to the Venezuelan government.
U.S. officials say the nephews met a DEA informant in Honduras in October and sought help sending of cocaine to the United States via an airport on the Honduran island of Roatan.
The cocaine was intended to be the first of many shipments, according to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
"During recorded meetings in Venezuela, Honduras, and Haiti, the defendants discussed transporting multiple loads of cocaine via private aircraft, with the unambiguous understanding that the narcotics would end up in this country," prosecutors say.
The two nephews were working with "purported Mexican drug traffickers who were in fact confidential sources acting at the direction of the DEA," the prosecution documents say.
During the confessions, he two men said the cocaine was being supplied by the FARC, prosecutors say.
Campo also told agents he and his cousin were working on their own and that his family "would kill him" if they had known what he was doing. He also complained that they needed the money because his family was not taking care of him financially.
Lawyers for Flores and Campo have sought to have their confessions thrown out claiming they were improperly induced to make statements.
When the pair were detained at a hotel in Haiti they suspected they were being kidnapped by unidentified armed men, their lawyers say. It was only later on a plane to the United States that DEA agents identified themselves, they add. When they spoke to the U.S. federal agents on the plane they did not understand their legal right to remain silent, the lawyers say.
Prosecutors counter that "the defendants were detained in Haiti by foreign law enforcement officials who identified themselves," according to one court document.
"During the flight from Haiti to the United States, the defendants confessed to participating in the charged cocaine-importation conspiracy, without coercion and only after they waived their Miranda rights knowingly, voluntarily, intelligently, and in writing," it added.
Another photograph in the court documents appears to show the pair being arrested by clearly identified Haitian police.