CARACAS – Venezuela confirmed Thursday that it seized Aeropostal airline, whose owner, Venezuelan Walid Makled, is under arrest in Colombia on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and involvement in three murders.
The move was announced by the director of Venezuela’s ONA anti-drug agency, Gen. Luis Reverol, as he informed the police attaches at the embassies of several countries in Venezuela of the laws against drug trafficking, among them those that allow the confiscation of the assets of accused persons.
“Now, Aeropostal (belongs) completely to the Venezuelan state,” said Reverol, adding that since late 2008 when Makled was found in possession of a shipment of 400 kilograms of cocaine, the airline’s payroll of 1,066 workers has grown to 1,082 and the fleet now totals five aircraft, compared to the one that had been in operation two years ago.
Caracas is asking Bogota to extradite Makled, who was detained Aug. 19 in Colombia on an international warrant issued by Venezuela after he fled his homeland.
The United States also has asked Colombia to extradite Makled, who has implicated in illegal acts assorted Venezuelans with political connections, among them a brother of Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, who denied the allegation.
Makled also said that he contributed “at least $2 million” in 2007 to the campaign of the failed referendum promoted by President Hugo Chavez to approve the elimination of presidential term limits.
“Via the defamatory remarks and lies that he is spreading” he is seeking to avoid his extradition to Venezuela, Minister El Aissami said recently of Makled, while Reverol remarked on Thursday that thanks to that he had converted himself into a “flag” for the opposition to Chavez.
“They have him as a political flag to defame the government,” but precisely because of those accusations “we’re demanding more than ever that he come to Venezuela to give proof of his accusations and say who is associated with these criminal bands,” Reverol said.
He also complained that “reporters call Makled a businessman and alleged drug trafficker” even though he has already been indicted.
Regarding the three murders attributed to him, two were of journalists who were investigating how he had acquired his properties, Reverol added.
“Venezuelan reporters must look towards ... Mexico, where in recent years drug trafficking (bands) killed 68 reporters; 17 so far in 2010,” he said. EFE