US offers US$5m reward for arrest of Venezuela chief justice

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FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and President of Venezuela’s Supreme Court Maikel Moreno take part in the ceremony marking the opening of the new court term at Venezuela’s Supreme Court, in Caracas, Venezuela January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo

[Business Times] The United States on Tuesday offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the chief justice of Venezuela’s supreme court, who faces US money laundering charges.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Maikal Jose Moreno Perez had “personally received money or property bribes to influence the outcome of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela” in recent years.

“Moreno Perez received the bribes in exchange for judicial actions” in more than 20 cases, such as ordering lower-court judges to release the accused or dismiss cases, Mr Pompeo said.

Moreno Perez, who has been on the US Treasury’s sanctions blacklist since May 2017, was added to the State Department’s separate list on Tuesday, along with his wife, for “involvement in significant corruption.”

That means the couple cannot enter the United States “indefinitely.”

In a statement, Mr Pompeo said the moves “reaffirm the US commitment to combating corruption and transnational organised crime in Venezuela.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump has recently ramped up the pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and his entourage.

Washington no longer recognises Mr Maduro as the legitimate president of the crisis-wracked country, and is seeking to force him from power.

The supreme court in Venezuela is seen as stacked with Maduro loyalists.