Trafficker ‘bought’ Venezuelan officials, US prosecutor says at trial


NEW YORK, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Venezuelan politicians, military officials and police were “bought and paid for” by a man on trial on charges of shipping tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States, a U.S. prosecutor said on Monday.

In an opening statement at accused trafficker Carlos Orense’s trial in Manhattan, prosecutor Kaylan Lasky said Orense stashed drugs and weapons on a ranch he owned in Venezuela, and paid off officials to ensure that planes and boats carrying his cocaine could depart without detection or inspection.

“The defendant bought and paid for them all with the dirtiest of drug money,” Lasky said. “He was part of a corrupt political system that allowed his drug business to flourish.”

Orense has pleaded not guilty to three counts of narcotics importation conspiracy and criminal weapons possession.

The trial is also expected to include testimony that a former chief executive officer of U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum – which is owned by state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela – helped Orense launder money in the mid-2000s, according to court records and a lawyer involved in a parallel case.

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