Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The United States levied personal sanctions against the vice president of Venezuela on Monday, designating him as a drug kingpin with ties to terrorist organizations based on the results of a years-long investigation.
Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Monday, preventing him from doing business in the United States or accessing more than $3 billion in assets on accusations he has been involved with the shipment of thousands of pounds of illegal drugs.
El Aissami has previously been accused of working with radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah to establish business interests in Central and South America to help them finance terrorism.
"OFAC's action today is the culmination of a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act to target significant narcotics traffickers in Venezuela and demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities," John E. Smith, acting director of OFAC, said in a press release. "This case highlights our continued focus on narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the United States."
El Aissami, who was appointed executive vice president of Venezuela in January, is accused of controlling drug routes to ship narcotics since he was governor of the Venezuelan state of Aragua and while serving as Minister of Interior and Justice.
El Aissami was responsible for shipping more than 2,200 pounds of narcotics from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States. He has been involved with other trafficking operations, some of which went to Venezuelan, Mexican and Colombian drug lords and cartels, according to the department's allegations.
Treasury Department officials also announced sanctions against Samark Jose Lopez Bello, who they say oversees shell corporations and properties in other countries, including five in Miami, that help launder money and are linked to other illegal activities, the officials said.