Venezuelan official: Ex-judge 'sold his soul' to the DEA

People walk in front of Venezuela's courthouse headquarters in Caracas on April 9, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Ex-judge said the nation's prosecutors had asked him to "orchestrate cases"
  • Venezuela's foreign minister says the ex-judge "sold his soul to the devil"
  • Costa Rican official: The DEA flew Eladio Aponte Aponte to the United States this week
  • Venezuelan officials accuse him of connections with an alleged drug trafficker
An ex-judge accusing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of manipulating court rulings is a fugitive who "sold his soul to the devil" when he agreed to talk with U.S. investigators, the nation's foreign minister said Thursday.
"People like him will keep being defeated and his lies will be unveiled," Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said.
Eladio Aponte Aponte, who was a Supreme Court justice until the Venezuelan government accused him of connections with an alleged drug trafficker last month, told SOiTV in an interview that aired this week that he made rulings in cases based on requests from Chavez and other top officials.
"They just asked for favors that I complied with. And woe be the judge that refused to cooperate. ... They were dismissed," Aponte Aponte said.
Top Venezuelan authorities were aware of at least one instance in which a military lieutenant was caught transporting cocaine to an army camp -- and made personal phone calls asking the judge to look the other way, Aponte Aponte told the Miami-based TV network.
CNN has not independently confirmed the former justice's accusations.
In recent years, the U.S. Treasury Department has placed several Venezuelan officials, including the nation's current defense minister, on its drug kingpin list.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration flew Aponte Aponte to the United States from Costa Rica early Monday morning, according to the head of the Central American country's intelligence agency.
Mauricio Boraschi said U.S. Embassy officials contacted the Costa Rican government after the former judge -- who had been in Costa Rica for about two weeks -- reached out to officials in Washington.
The U.S. State Department told CNN it could not comment on what it called "this law enforcement matter."
Venezuela's foreign minister criticized the United States for attempting to destabilize his country's government.
"It is easy to understand how a fugitive from justice processed for his connections with drug trafficking mafias and removed from his job has sold his soul to the DEA," Maduro said. "The DEA has appeared again as a political actor in Venezuela against Venezuela."
The DEA has not commented on Aponte Aponte. An agency official who watched portions of the interview that aired on CNN en Español said it was "very interesting."
The former justice told SOiTV that high-ranking Venezuelan officials were involved in drug trafficking, but declined to say who or offer evidence.
In one instance, Aponte Aponte said, Chavez's office called and asked for the former judge's help after a military lieutenant was caught with cocaine. So did the nation's defense minister and other top officials, Aponte Aponte said.
They said "he was a good guy, that it was the president's order, that the president was very interested in the case," Aponte Aponte said.
The former judge also described weekly meetings in the Venezuelan vice president's office with the president of the Supreme Court, the attorney general and other top officials.
"That is where the directives of the justice system come from. ... They decide what guidelines to follow depending on the political climate," he said.
Aponte Aponte also said the nation's prosecutors participated in extortion and had asked him to "orchestrate cases." The attorney general's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Several of Aponte Aponte's remarks contradicted previous statements by top Venezuelan officials -- including Chavez.
When asked whether there were political prisoners in Venezuela -- something Chavez has previously denied -- Aponte Aponte said yes.
"There are people they ordered not to be released. ... In a nutshell, we had to accept the fact that they were not to be released, so the justice system turned its back on them," he said.
Asked whether he felt that the Venezuelan government had turned against him, Aponte Aponte said, "I think they did that a long time ago. I just didn't realize it."
Venezuelan officials removed Aponte Aponte from his post last month, accusing him of providing a government credential to a man authorities allege was one of the world's top drug lords.
Aponte Aponte, who has not confirmed or denied that accusation, left Venezuela the day he was supposed to face questioning in the Venezuelan National Assembly.