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Photo: AP/Ariana Cubillos
Photo: AP/Ariana Cubillos

U.S. offers $5 million for information on Venezuela’s Chief Justice

The U.S. seeks the arrest of Justice Maikel Moreno after he allegedly received bribes for several past court cases.

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Maikel Jose Moreno Perez currently serves as the President of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Moreno for crimes he allegedly committed while heading Venezuela’s high court.

The reasoning given by the State Department for the action was that the Venezuelan Chief Justice received bribes to tell judges how to rule on certain cases and for being involved in transnational organized crime. 

“Moreno Perez…  has personally received money or property as bribery payments to influence the outcome of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela. Moreno Perez received the bribes in exchange for judicial actions in over 20 judicial cases, such as directing lower-court judges to release specific defendants or to dismiss particular cases,” the State Department wrote. 

A reward of $5 million is being offered by the U.S. Transnational Organized Crime Reward Program for anyone with information that would lead to his arrest or conviction. 

The 54-year-old judge was charged with money laundering in March by a U.S. District Court in Florida. 

In that same case, a total of 15 current or former Venezuelan officials had changes presented against them. Among them was also President Nicolas Maduro, who was charged with drug trafficking. The reward for information leading to his capture is $15 million.

The U.S. Treasury had previously sanctioned Moreno in 2017 along with seven members of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. 

The court was targeted because of its annulment of the National Assembly, which was led by the opposition to Maduro.

Other countries in the Americas have also taken action against the chief justice.

In 2019, Colombia released a list of over 200 Venezuelan officials who were accused of collaborating with Maduro that were barred from entering the country and Moreno was included.

Canada also imposed sanctions against Maduro and 39 people tied to his administration (including Moreno) in 2017, after over 125 people died in protests against the government.  

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about why he believes the government should seek the arrest of Moreno while he was visiting Denmark. 

“Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, a Maduro crony, used his position of authority for personal gain, accepting bribes to influence the outcomes of criminal cases in Venezuela. In publicly designating him today, we are sending a clear message: the U.S. stands firmly against corruption” Pompeo wrote on July 21.

Justice Moreno responded to the allegations brought against him by the U.S. in a televised statement on Wednesday.

“It is not the first time that the spokespersons of the U.S. empire intend to attack me, in their clumsy, desperate attempts, full of manipulations and lies, through which they seek to subvert the democratic institutions and peace in Venezuela, but they will not be able to achieve it, because the independence and sovereignty of the Homeland are not under discussion,” said Moreno.

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