The two cousins were sentenced to 18 years in prison for trying to import cocaine into the US. Prosecutors argued they wanted to use drug funds to help their family's political campaigns.
Two nephews of Venezuela's first lady Cilia Flores were given 18-year prison sentences in a US court on Thursday after being convicted of drug conspiracy. Although prosecutors had been asking for 30 years, the judge said that their lack of criminal record and incompetence had earned them leniency.
Efrain Campo, 31 and Francisco Flores, 33, "were not the most astute drug dealers who existed. They were in over their heads," New York district Judge Paul A. Crotty said.
On top of the jail terms, each man was fined $50,000.
The members of Venezuela's powerful ruling family were arrested in Haiti in 2015 after they were caught using their political connections to make a drug-laden private flight from Venezuela to Honduras appear legitimate. The pair then planned to import the 1,700 pounds of cocaine into the United States.
They were found guilty by a grand jury in 2016.
Cilia Flores married Nicolas Maduro in 2013. She was president of the National Assembly from 2006 to 2011, then Attorney General, and now a representative in the National Assembly for her home state of Cojedes
Money for Maduro?
According to prosecutors, the cousins were attempting to fund a political campaign to keep their family in power as President Nicolas Maduro faces widespread protest and an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.
Defense lawyers had asked for a 10-year sentence, arguing that the men were novices to the drug trade, and that they were being unfairly targeted as relatives of a regime often at loggerheads with Washington.
"I am very remorseful and ashamed for all the harm and suffering this has caused," Campo told the court.
"I'm so sorry for the terrible mistake I committed," Flores said. "We're all human, and sometimes we sin."
Judge Crotty argued however, that the men seemed "more concerned about the impact on their family than violations of the law of the United States."
The Venezuelan government has said that it believes the men were framed by US authorities.
es/ng (AP, AFP)