Venezuela Drug Trafficker Turned Informant Sentenced: Lightly

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Notorious Venezuela drug trafficker Walid Makled has been sentenced to 14 years in prison but absolved of several crimes in what is a surprisingly lenient verdict considering both the charges he faced and the accusations he leveled against Venezuelan officials.

On February 10, a judge in Caracas sentenced Makled to 14 years and six months in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering, reported Semana. Makled was absolved of weapons and organized crime charges, as well as charges related to the murder of veterinarian Francisco Larrazabal.

Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said her office would appeal the court’s decision and investigate the judge, Ali Fabricio Paredes, for favoritism, reported El Universal. Paredes was arrested shortly after Ortega’s announcement.

Two of Makled’s siblings –-Basel and Alex Makled — were sentenced to eight years in prison for money laundering, while a third sibling was convicted of weapons concealment, according to Semana.

InSight Crime Analysis

Given the high level of politicization in Venezuela’s judiciary system, it is surprising that Makled was absolved of several charges. After he was arrested in Colombia in 2010, Makled thoroughly embarrassed the Venezuelan government by claiming he had evidence that implicated high-level military and government officials in his drug trafficking operations. He also stated that he had financed one of former President Hugo Chavez’s campaigns in exchange for concessions at a major port, Puerto Cabello.

Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office no doubt plans to rectify what they see as a lenient sentence by appealing the court’s decision and arresting the judge. Makled’s testimony gave the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a substantial amount of dirt on Venezuelan officials, likely leading to sanctions like the blacklisting of former head of military intelligence General Cliver Alcala by the US Treasury. He also provided information on the Cartel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns), a shadowy group of high-level Venezuelan military officials involved in cocaine trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Cartel de los Soles News and Profile

Prior to his arrest, Makled reportedly facilitated the smuggling of up to 10 tons of cocaine a month destined for the United States. Makled used his family’s businesses and contacts to broker drug shipments for the Cartel of the Suns and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), among other groups. When he went public with his allegations, he famously quipped, “All my business associates are generals.”

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