US charges Venezuela leader over drug plot

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been charged in the US over cocaine trafficking.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been charged in the US over cocaine trafficking.

The US Justice Department has charged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and top officials of the country for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking scheme to "flood" the United States with cocaine.

Maduro and his top lieutenants ran a "narco-terrorism partnership" with leftist Colombian guerrilla group FARC for the past 20 years, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said.

"The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges," he said on Thursday.

Venezuala's defence minister and chief Supreme Court judge were among the officials charged.

The State Department offered a reward of up to $US15 million ($A25 million) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.

Maduro already faces US sanctions and has been the target of a US effort aimed at pushing him from power.

Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

US officials have long accused Maduro and his associates or running a "narco-state", saying they have used drug trafficking proceeds to make up for lost revenue from a Venezuelan oil sector heavily sanctioned by the United States.

The indictments were unsealed in New York, Florida and Washington on Thursday.

Australian Associated Press