Venezuelan ex-spymaster to be held in Spanish jail pending transfer to U.S.

Former Venezuelan intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal leaves prison after being freed in Estremera, Spain

Former Venezuelan military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal, who was arrested on Thursday in Madrid after hiding for almost two years, will be held in prison pending extradition to the United States, Spain’s High Court said on Friday.

U.S. investigators have charged Carvajal, a former general and ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, with narco-terrorism and drug trafficking, accusing him and others including President Nicolas Maduro of running a cocaine cartel. He and Maduro have both rejected the accusations.

After the High Court approved Carvajal’s extradition in late 2019, he went into hiding.

The narco-terrorism conspiracy charge carries a potential mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and the cocaine importing conspiracy charge carries a 10-year minimum, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a statement on Friday.

Any sentence will ultimately be determined by a judge, Strauss added.

On Thursday, Spanish police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tracked him down to a house in the outskirts of Madrid and broke down an armor-plated door to find him inside.

Nicknamed “El Pollo” (The Chicken), Carvajal had been switching his hiding place every three months and living a life of total isolation, not going outside or even looking out of the window, police said.

He had undergone several operations to modify his appearance and police said they had found fake moustaches, beards and wigs at the house.

Carvajal’s lawyer in Spain, Maria Dolores de Arguelles, said Carvajal filed a request for asylum in Spain, which could delay his extradition.

The Spanish Justice Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carvajal denounced Maduro in 2019, and U.S. officials have said they believe he has a “treasure trove” of details about Maduro.

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