MIAMI (AP) — After a surprising court reversal on Friday, a former Venezuelan spymaster accused of attempting to “flood” the United States with drugs is one step closer to being extradited from Spain, The Associated Press has learned.
The fate of Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal, who was for over a decade the eyes and ears in the military of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, is now in the hands of an interim Spanish government. The final Cabinet approval, if it comes, would happen after the country’s general election on Sunday, people familiar with the matter told AP.
That follows Friday’s decision by a panel of top judges at the country’s National Court reversing an earlier ruling that threw out the U.S. arrest warrant for being politically motivated, Spanish online news website El Español reported.
A source familiar with the situation said that Carvajal was planning to turn himself in after police showed up in his absence at the family’s Madrid apartment. Another person familiar with the matter confirmed that the police was at the house.
All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Anti-drug prosecutors had appealed a mid-September decision by the Spanish National Court rejecting the extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on drug smuggling and other charges.
In addition to considering Carvajal’s arguments that the extradition was politically motivated, the judges also said the charges lacked enough detail and that Carvajal had been acting under his military obligations when he committed the alleged crimes.
El Español said that Friday’s reversal was taken in a 11-7 vote, showing it was a divisive call. A court spokeswoman said she couldn’t confirm nor deny that the decision had taken place.
The extradition needs to be cleared next by the Spanish Cabinet, which typically holds weekly meetings every Friday. Appeals can be filed before the country’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop the extradition.
The U.S. had been seeking Carvajal’s extradition since the former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence fled to Spain in late March after publicly supporting the opposition’s efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Prosecutors in New York say Carvajal should face trial for “narcoterrorism” as part of a group of Venezuelan officials who were charged with “flooding” the U.S. with drugs.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ties Carvajal to a 5.6-ton cocaine shipment busted in Mexico in 2006 and accuse him of aiding and protecting Colombian guerrillas.
The DEA referred questions to the U.S. Southern District Court in New York, which had no comment on the matter.
Parra reported from Madrid. Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington D.C. contributed to this report.