U.S. seeking arrest of Venezuela chief justice, offers reward for info

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro takes part in the ceremony marking the opening of the new court term at Venezuela's Supreme Court in Caracas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Venezuelan Chief Justice Maikel Moreno and announced a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction for allegedly participating in transnational organized crime.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the chief justice of Venezuela's supreme court was being offered through the State Department's Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program.

The sanctions imposed on Moreno, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, bar him and his wife from traveling to the United States over accusations of his involvement in significant corruption.

In a statement, Moreno said Venezuela's judiciary would not accept "tutelage" from a foreign government.

"This is not the first time that the mouthpieces of the North American empire seek to attack me with their clumsy attacks, full of manipulations and lies," Moreno said.

The United States and dozens of other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president, regarding Maduro's 2018 re-election as a sham. But Maduro has remained in power, backed by the country's military and by Russia, China and Cuba.

The United States charged Moreno in March with money laundering under a round of indictments against Maduro and more than a dozen other top Venezuelan officials on charges of "narco-terrorism" in an escalation of the Trump administration's campaign aimed at ousting the socialist leader.

Pompeo on Tuesday said that in his position, Moreno "has personally received money or property bribes to influence the outcome of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela."

The United States previously blacklisted Moreno and seven other members of Venezuela's Supreme Court in 2017 as punishment for annulling the opposition-led Congress earlier that year, freezing his U.S. assets and generally prohibiting Americans from doing business with him.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Mary Milliken, Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)