Venezuela: 5 nabbed on money laundering charges

Venezuela's top security official announced the arrest of five people on charges of money laundering and said Tuesday that there are suspicions that several opposition politicians were involved in the scheme.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said the dismantled money-laundering ring handled cash operations involving as much as $10 million.

"This ring operated in several of the country's states and it used various businesses and people as a front," El Aissami said at a news conference.

He said several fly-by-night businesses, including a construction company, were involved in the alleged scheme.

Investigators believe two opposition politicians, Carabobo Gov. Henrique Salas Feo and Nueva Esparta Gov. Morel Rodriguez, maintained ties to the ring of money launderers, El Aissami added, although he gave no details.

Salas Feo rejected the accusation in a Twitter message, calling the allegations part of "a smear campaign."

Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.

El Aissami said much of the laundered money came from drug trafficking profits.

Venezuela is a major hub for gangs that smuggle Colombian cocaine, and U.S. officials have accused President Hugo Chavez's government of failing to effectively fight drug trafficking. Venezuelan officials reject those accusations, saying their anti-drug efforts are increasingly successful.