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Ranking Member Risch Requests Updated Assessment of Venezuela’s Transnational Criminal Network

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday sent a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provide an assessment of the scope of the transactional criminal network threat within and from Venezuela, as well as a review of the effectiveness of the United States Government’s policies actions, and authorities to combat these criminal threats.

“In July 2009, GAO issued a report in response to a request by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Richard Lugar regarding an investigation into U.S. policies designed to interdict narcotics being trafficked from Venezuela. In its conclusions, GAO noted that the lack of Venezuelan counter-narcotics cooperation significantly hindered U.S. capacity to stop narcotics flows into the U.S., and that continued safe haven and support from Venezuela for illegal armed groups were likely to threaten the security gains made in Colombia since 2000. Since then, the actions of the Maduro regime have made the situation much worse.

“In May 2019, a study by IBI Consultants and the National Defense University described a Venezuelan government that had morphed into a vast criminal enterprise spanning the world and involved in falsified oil sales, illegal mining, fraudulent infrastructure projects, and financial crimes. According to the study, this criminal network may have stolen as much as $43 billion between 2007 and 2018, with the help of the political leadership of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, and El Salvador.

“In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced indictments against 15 current and former Venezuelan officials, including former President Nicolas Maduro, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, for allegedly collaborating with senior members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) terrorist organization to use cocaine as a weapon to “flood” the United States. In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said that “[t]he scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges.”

A copy of the full letter can be found here.