(Reuters) – A man whose U.S. private jet firm allegedly provided travel services to Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, whom Washington accuses of drug trafficking, pled guilty to sanctions violations on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Victor Mones Coro, founder of Florida-based American Charter Services (ACS), had been charged in March by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, along with El Aissami, for violating Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act sanctions imposed by the United States in 2017.
Those charges accused El Aissami, who currently serves as vice president for the economy in socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s government, of illegally using services provided by ACS.
Washington recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president, arguing Maduro is usurping power after holding sham elections last year.
“Victor Mones Coro has now admitted that he conspired to circumvent U.S. sanctions to help former Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami… obtain international transport via private jet,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
ACS, which has not been charged, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Venezuela’s information ministry, which responds to media requests on behalf of government officials, did not respond to a request for comment.
Venezuelan officials accuse Washington of seeking to oust Maduro in a coup to take control of the OPEC nation’s vast oil resources.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July added El Aissami to its list of 10 most wanted fugitives.
“Today we have learned of a new, infamous, attempted aggression by the empire,” El Aissami said then in a video posted to his Twitter account.
“They can accuse us of whatever they want. We will keep building the dream of Bolivar, the dream of the fatherland,” he added, referring to Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Reporting by Luc Cohen in Caracas; Editing by Dan Grebler
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