MIAMI – It was mid-January and Jordan Goudreau was itching to get going on a secret plan to raid Venezuela and arrest President Nicolás Maduro when the former special forces commando flew to the city of Barranquilla in Colombia to meet with his would-be partner in arms.
To get there, Goudreau and two former Green Beret buddies relied on some unusual help: a chartered flight out of Miami's Opa Locka executive airport on a plane owned by a Venezuelan businessman so close to the government of the late Hugo Chávez that he spent almost four years in a U.S. prison for trying to cover up clandestine cash payments to its allies.
The owner of the Venezuela-registered Cessna Citation II with yellow and blue lines, identified with the tail number YV-3231, was Franklin Durán, according to three people familiar with the businessman’s movements who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Durán over two decades has had numerous business ties with the socialist government of Venezuela, making him an odd choice to help a band of would-be-mercenaries overthrow Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Chávez
Durán and his associates are now at the center of multiple investigations in the U.S., Colombia and Venezuela into how Goudreau, a combat veteran with three Bronze Stars but little knowledge of Venezuela, managed to launch a failed raid that ended with the capture and arrest of his two special forces colleagues.
A Caracas court on Thursday ordered Durán's arrest as part of its ongoing investigation into the incursion. The Supreme Court in a statement said Durán — who the AP learned was detained Sunday along with his brother — was suspected of crimes including treason, rebellion, conspiracy with a foreign government as well as arms trafficking and terrorism. The arrests of seven others were also ordered.
The government has yet to comment on the arrest order or explain what role Durán allegedly played in the conspiracy.
But Durán's closeness to top officials had revived allegations floated by opposition leader Juan Guaidó and U.S. officials that he was secretly working on Maduro’s behalf and had co-opted “Operation Gideon,” the name of Goudreau's foiled plot.
“There’s financing here from the dictatorship,” Guaidó said in an interview following the raid with EVTV Miami, an online media outlet run by Venezuelan exiles. “A businessman, a front man closely linked to the host of the gossip show,” he said in reference to socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello, whose weekly TV program, fed by nuggets from Venezuela’s vast intelligence network that he controls, first aired in March the accusations of a planned attack by Goudreau.