Spanish – The U.S. justice system dealt a heavy blow to Samark López, Tareck El Aissami’s frontman. The Supreme Court reiterated that over 318 million USD were to be paid to victims of kidnapping by the Colombian guerrilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
On Monday, August 3, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal filed by the defense of López, who refused to hand over the property that was confiscated from him.
López is the frontman for El Aissami, Chavista oil minister under Nicolás Maduro. Both men face charges in the United States for their links to drug trafficking and international terrorism.
NEW: The Supreme Court has denied the stay request by Samark Lopez. This allows the three American defense contractors held captive for years by FARC to collect on their $318 million award from Lopez's frozen assets in the U.S. https://t.co/Lek9phDVPW
— Joshua Goodman (@APjoshgoodman) August 3, 2020
An AP report revealed that a U.S. high court judge dismissed an appeal filed by Samark López and granted Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, and Thomas Howes the right to collect the million-dollar sum.
The three U.S. citizens were captured by the FARC in 2003 when their airplane crash-landed during a drug-monitoring flight. They were released 12 years ago, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
In 2012, a federal judge in Florida awarded the men 318 million USD as compensation to be paid from bank accounts seized from individuals linked to the FARC, which is on the list of terrorist groups. But they had not been able to receive the money until President Donald Trump signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which allows victims of terrorist groups to receive assets seized by the U.S. government under anti-drug laws.
The new rules allowed the men to go after López’s blocked assets in the United States, which include a Citibank account with 269 million USD, two yachts, a plane, and luxury properties in Miami.
Samark López, the drug lord, and frontman for El Aissami
Samark López Bello is accused of being El Aissami’s principal frontman and reportedly owns about a dozen companies linked to Venezuela’s current oil minister.
López was sanctioned by the United States in 2017 as a drug lord along with El Aissami for laundering profits from international drug trafficking.
During the trial for the assets’ claim, prosecutors said López had only indirect ties to the FARC through his friendship with El Aissami, who U.S. authorities said helped the guerrillas move cocaine through Venezuela.
Samark López reportedly acquired real estate in the United States for more than 20 million USD in cash.
López was responsible for importing at least 633 containers with the CLAP socialist food boxes, a subsidized food plan whereby the regime sells overpriced to Venezuelans and is also linked to international drug trafficking.
A statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) labels Samark López a “co-conspirator of El Aissami.”
“López provided material assistance and financial support in support of the international narcotics trafficking activities of and acting for or on behalf of, Maddah. For more than two years, López and others defrauded the U.S. government by engaging in transactions prohibited by the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and related regulations and evading sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations,” the document states.
According to the United States, both El Aissami and López Bello circumvented the sanctions by working with U.S. citizens when obtaining travel services, including private jets.
“El Aissami and López Bello often paid for these services through intermediaries who delivered bulk cash in Venezuela for subsequent laundering to and/or within the U.S. Certain flights are alleged to have been in connection with El Aissami’s official duties, notably trips to Turkey and Russia,” ICE added.