May 5, 2016 / 5:11 PM / 2 years ago

Ex-Venezuela parliament head sues News Corp over drug article

NEW YORK, May 5 (Reuters) - Diosdado Cabello, the former head of Venezuela’s national assembly, filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the Wall Street Journal of libeling him in an article reporting he was the target of a U.S. drug trafficking probe.

Cabello filed the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against News Corp, the newspaper’s owner, saying the May 2015 article contained “false and defamatory allegations” that Cabello was involved in criminal activities related to drug trafficking and money laundering.

The story has caused “enormous damage to Mr. Cabello’s reputation and good name, both personally and in his capacity as a key member of Venezuela’s National Assembly,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from News Corp and its Dow Jones subsidiary, which was also named as a defendant.

A spokeswoman for News Corp had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit comes as U.S. authorities including federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration are probing to what extent Venezuelan officials have facilitated drug trafficking.

In the article of May 18, 2015, headlined “Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub,” the Wall Street Journal reported that Cabello was a leading target in the investigations.

Cabello, the No. 2 figure in Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party, is a member of the country’s National Assembly, which he presided over from January 2012 to January 2016.

Cabello has repeatedly denied involvement in Venezuela’s drug trade, telling Venezuela’s parliament last year that “it would never occur to us to get involved in something that would hurt young people.”

In his lawsuit, Cabello says the newspaper inaccurately represented quotes from unnamed sources, and falsely stated he was the probe’s “biggest target.”

The case is Cabello-Rondon v. Dow Jones & Company, Inc, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-03346. (Editing by Noeleen Walder and Matthew Lewis)

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