September 29, 2022 5:29 am
Maduro ally extradited to US on money laundering charges

Maduro ally extradited to US on money laundering charges

MIAMI (AP) – A top fugitive close to Venezuela‘s socialist government has been put on a flight from Cape Verde to the United States to face money laundering charges, a senior U.S. official confirmed Saturday.

Alex Saab flew chartered from West Africa, a small island country chain, on a Justice Department flight. he was stopped on the way to Iran for a mission that Nicolas Maduro’s government later called a diplomatic humanitarian mission.

The official spoke under the condition he not to be identified. Saab was represented by a public relations firm. They sent an email stating that the Colombian businessman had been taken from his house without his lawyers having been notified.

Saab’s arrival in the U.S. is bound to complicate relations between Washington and Caracas, possibly disrupting fledgling talks between Maduro’s government and its U.S.-backed opposition taking place in Mexico.

Maduro has criticised the U.S. over the “kidnapping and torture” of Saab. A Colombian businessman, prosecutors claim, made a fortune by dealing and wheeling for the socialist government. The U.S. faces severe sanctions. Sanctions.

American authorities have been targeting Saab for years, believing he holds numerous secrets about how Maduro, the president’s family and his top aides siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts for food and housing amid widespread hunger in oil-rich Venezuela.

However, his defenders (including Maduro’s government, as well as allies Russia, and Cuba) consider his arrest illegal. They maintain that Saab was a diplomat envoy for Venezuela and therefore enjoy immunity from prosecution when on official business.

In a statement Saturday, Venezuela‘s government again denounced the “kidnapping” of Saab by the U.S. government “in complicity with authorities in Cape Verde.”

” The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela condemns this grave violation of human right against a Venezuelan citizen who was invested as a diplomat, and representative of our country in front of the world,” the statement stated.

The argument was unsuccessful in convincing Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court to authorize his extradition. After a year of negotiations by Saab’s legal team (which includes Baltasar Garzon, a former Spanish judge, and BakerHostetler – one of the largest U.S. firms), it was approved last month.

Federal Miami prosecutors indicted Saab in 2019 for money-laundering allegations related to an alleged scheme that allegedly bribed more than $350 millions from a low-income housing development for the Venezuelan government.

Separately, Saab had been sanctioned by the previous Trump administration for allegedly utilizing a network of shell companies spanning the globe – in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Hong Kong, Panama, Colombia and Mexico – to hide huge profits from no-bid, overvalued food contracts obtained through bribes and kickbacks.

Some contracts Saab obtained were made by paying bribes for the children of Cilia Flores, Venezuela’s first lady. Commonly known in Venezuela as “Los Chamos,” slang for “the kids,” the three men are also under investigation by prosecutors in Miami for allegedly forming part of a scheme to siphon $1.2 billion from Venezuela‘s state-owned oil company, two people familiar with the U.S. investigation told The Associated Press.

While U.S. officials have described Saab for many years as a Maduro frontman, court filings do not identify him as such.

The previous Trump administration made Saab’s extradition top priority. At one point, it even sent a Navy warship to Africa to keep an eye out for the captive.


On Saturday.

Maduro’s government strongly objected to Saab’s prosecution as a veiled attempt by the U.S. regime change. government.

Alex Saab “An innocent Venezuelan diplomat who was kidnapped and subject to human rights violations, who has served our nation face with an imprudent imperial blockade,” Delcy Rodiriguez, Venezuelan Vice President, tweeted.

However, the Biden administration has downplayed the importance of Saab’s problems, saying he can defend himself in U.S. courts and that his case shouldn’t affect ongoing negotiations sponsored by Norway aimed at overcoming Venezuela‘s long-running economic crisis and political tug of war.

The government last month appointed Saab to its negotiating team and fellow envoys arrived in Mexico carrying signs reading “Free Alex Saab.”

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