A former member of the Venezuelan National Assembly and an ally of disputed President Nicolas Maduro was charged Wednesday in New York with narco-terrorism offenses that include cocaine trafficking and coordination with Hezbollah and Hamas.
Adel El Zabayar was part of Maduro's Cartel de Los Soles that sought support from FARC, Hezbollah and Hamas to achieve the objective of "flooding" the United States with cocaine, according to federal prosecutors.
ABC’s Aaron Katersky reports for ABC News Radio:
"Today's charges against Adel El Zabayar for trading arms for cocaine, and recruiting extremists, further demonstrates the corruption inside the Maduro regime," said DEA acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea.
El Zabayar, of Syrian descent, was photographed in Syria in 2013 alongside troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad, and the criminal complaint portrays him as a go-between in an alliance that involved drug runners, the Venezuelan military and groups the U.S. considers terrorist organizations.
Prosecutors said El Zabayar was one of several cartel members that received a planeload of military grade weaponry from Lebanon.
"The men received a Lebanese cargo plane that was full of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-103s, and sniper rifles, that El Zabayar had obtained while he was in the Middle East," the criminal complaint said.
"We further allege today, for the first time, that the Cártel de Los Soles sought to recruit terrorists from Hizballah and Hamas to assist in planning and carrying out attacks on the U.S., and that El Zabayar was instrumental as a go-between," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said.
Court records described a 2014 meeting at the presidential palace in Caracas during which El Zabayar, Maduro and others "discussed, among other things, and in substance and in part, arranging a meeting between the leaders of the FARC and the leaders of Hizballah and Hamas."