The U.S .has been eager to find any evidence that the left-wing government of Venezuela is tainted by narco-trafficking. But now it looks like a Florida police force may have been co-opted by the Venezuelan narco-networks.
Federal authorities are saying that for two years beginning in 2010, police in Bal Harbour, Miami-Dade County, funneled millions in drug money into the bank accounts of Venezuelans—including William Amaro Sánchez, now special assistant to President Nicolás Maduro. The supposed goal was to disrupt the networks, but this supposed undercover sting operation generated millions for a local police task force and never made a single arrest.
The explosive account in the Miami Herald leaves it slightly ambiguous whether this was corruption or an overly zealous operation that exceeded its jurisdictional limits.
"They had no authority to do what they were doing," Felix Jimenez, former chief inspector of the DEA, said. "They were just lucky that when they were picking up all this money, nobody got killed."
Federal agents with the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago are now investigating the operation by the Tri-County Task Force, a partnership between Bal Harbour and the Glades County Sheriff's Office, including $2.4 million kept by the police for brokering the deals.
"It's absurd. You're a Bal Harbour police officer, your jurisdiction is local," Jimenez said. "They were just laundering money for the sake of laundering money."
On at least three occassions, money was wired to David Habib Hannaoui Babik, a who was under investigation for money laundering in Venezuela. By sending drug money to Hannaoui, the Florida cops were actually working against Venezuelan investigators, who were trying to stop his criminal enterprise, Jimenez told the Herald.
"They facilitated a money-laundering operation," he said. "It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Hannaoui was eventually arrested after Venezuelan police raided his penthouse and found $1 million in cash, wire receipts, two money counters, Rolex watches and records of 31 shell companies.
(Photo Courtesy of Maguzz.com)