U.S. Designates Venezuelan VP Drug Trafficker

Feb 28, 2017

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, has designated Venezuelan national Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

El Aissami is the Executive Vice President of Venezuela. El Aissami's primary frontman, Venezuelan national Samark Jose Lopez Bello, was also designated for providing material assistance, financial support, or goods or services in support of the international narcotics trafficking activities of, and acting on behalf of, El Aissami.

As a result, Americans are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or otherwise dealing with these individuals, and any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

El Aissami was appointed Executive Vice President of Venezuela in January 2017. He served as Governor of Venezuela's Aragua state from 2012 to 2017, and as Venezuela's Minister of Interior and Justice starting in 2008. He is reported to have facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela and controlled drug routes through ports in Venezuela. In his previous positions, he oversaw or partially owned shipments of over 1,000 kilograms of narcotics from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with final destinations in Mexico and the United States.

Lopez Bello is a key frontman for El Aissami and in that capacity launders drug proceeds. El Aissami uses Lopez Bello to purchase certain assets. Lopez Bello also handles business arrangements and financial matters for El Aissami.“Thus far, more than $100 million in illicit assets have been frozen in the United States, making this the most effective designation under the 18-year history of the Kingpin program.”

These Treasury Department designations demonstrate that power and influence do not protect those who engage in such illicit activities, said John Smith, Acting Director of OFAC. The United States remains focused on denying a safe haven for illicit assets in the United States and protecting the U.S. financial system from abuse.