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US includes Venezuelan minister in a list of most wanted fugitives

According to the notice, which was announced Wednesday on the ICE Twitter account, El Aissami, 44, is wanted for his alleged links to international drug trafficking

Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia

Reuters | Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas

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The United States included the Venezuelan Minister of Industry, Tareck El Aissami, in the list of the 10 most wanted fugitives by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), according to the agency's website.

Leer en español: EE.UU. incluye a ministro venezolano en una lista de fugitivos más buscados

According to the statement, which was announced Wednesday on the ICE Twitter account, El Aissami, 44, is wanted for his alleged links to international drug trafficking.

"He facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control of airplanes that left a Venezuelan airbase and drug routes through ports in Venezuela," says the statement, citing the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which already had sanctioned him in 2017.

The Venezuelan Ministry of Communication did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aissami has had a long history under Chavez governments. He was Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace in 2008, then Governor of the Aragua state between 2012 and 2017. He was later Executive Vice President and is currently also Vice President of Economy.

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According to OFAC, El Aissami "supervised or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with Mexico and the United States as final destinations."

Venezuelan businessman Samark José López Bello, 45, linked to El Aissami and sanctioned by the Treasury Department, is also on the ICE list (https://www.ice.gov/most-wanted).

The US government announced in March criminal charges against El Aissami for violating the sanctions imposed by Washington two years ago, when he was accused of drug trafficking.

The Venezuelan minister was singled out for evading the February 2017 sanctions by hiring U.S. companies to provide him with private flight services, including a flight to Venezuela from Russia on February 23.

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