Venezuela’s former military intelligence chief, who has been arrested in Madrid after nearly two years on the run, underwent plastic surgery and used disguises to avoid being caught, Spanish police said Friday.
Officers arrested General Hugo Armando Carvajal, who served as intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and is wanted in the United States on drug charges, late on Thursday at a Madrid apartment.
Known as “El Pollo”, or “The Chicken”, he went missing just days after a Spanish court in November 2019 approved a request for his extradition to the United States.
Carvajal told police he had remained in Spain this whole time and changed residences every three months and lived “completely shut-in, without going out into the streets at any moment,” Spain’s National Police said in a statement.
“In addition there is evidence that he underwent several cosmetic surgery operations to chance his appearance and used all types of disguises” such as fake moustaches and beards as well as wigs, the statement added.
Police said the only times Carvajal stepped outdoors was to go out on the terrace of the apartments where he was hiding and always “at night and disguised”.
Carvajal has long been sought by US Treasury officials who suspect him of providing support to drug trafficking by the FARC guerrilla group in Colombia.
In an indictment filed in New York in 2011, Carvajal was accused of coordinating the transport of more than 5.6 tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006 that was ultimately destined for the US.
If convicted, Carvajal could face between 10 years and life in prison, according to the US Justice Department.
Carvajal has denied any links to drug trafficking and the FARC.
A spokesman for Spain’s National Court which handled extradition requests said it would “not take long” to send Carvajal back to the United States.
But his lawyer, Maria Dolores de Arguelles, said Spanish authorities must first process Carvajal’s request for asylum and rule on an appeal of the extradition.
Carvajal was stripped of his rank by the administration of President Nicolas Maduro after coming out in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s acting president in February 2019.
He then fled by boat to the Dominican Republic before relocating to Spain.
Carvajal was arrested in Spain in April 2019 but in September of that year when a court ordered his release, arguing the US extradition request was “politically motivated”.
The court then reversed that decision in November after accepting an appeal from the public prosecutor’s office but Carvajal then went on the run.