Businessman Alex Saab, linked to the government of Nicolas Maduro, has been handed over to the United States, where he faces corruption charges, Cape Verde’s national radio reported this Saturday.
Saab is accused in the United States of money laundering charges and was pointed out in an investigation by the Armando.info portal as the main person responsible for a corruption plot in the subsidized food program of the Venezuelan government known as CLAP (Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Production). He had been detained in Cape Verde, a West African archipelago, since June 12, 2020, at the request of the United States.
The Venezuelan government issued a statement in which it denounced the “kidnapping” of Saab by the United States government “in complicity with the Cape Verdean authorities, who tortured him and arbitrarily held him prisoner for 491 days.”
Jorge Rodríguez, head of the government delegation in the negotiations opened with the opposition in Mexico, announced that, after the delivery of Saab, the government suspended its participation in this dialogue process.
The opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized as interim president of Venezuela by Washington, congratulated himself because “those who turned hunger into a weapon of social control and into a business today are responding to justice.”
The US authorities accuse Saab of money laundering and of serving as a front man for Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, in a wide network of drug trafficking, dollar laundering and the fraudulent award of millionaire official contracts.
After his arrest, the Venezuelan government assured that Saab is a diplomat who was traveling on an official mission and has insistently demanded his release.
What accusations does Saab face
In July 2019, the US Department of Justice filed charges against Saab and another Colombian businessman, Álvaro Enrique Pulido, for allegedly having laundered up to $ 350 million dollars that they would have obtained through the exchange control system in Venezuela.
He is also accused of having amassed a fortune with the contracts linked to the CLAP program that he would have hidden in a network of front companies in countries such as Turkey, Panama, Colombia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. His lawyers have always maintained that the accusations were “politically motivated.”
Saab was detained in Cape Verde in June 2020, on his way to Iran. Later, the Venezuelan government claimed that he was on a diplomatic mission in Caracas.
If convicted in the United States, Saab could face 20 years in prison.
Various reports have indicated that the businessman, of Colombian origin, is very close to Nicolás Maduro and other senior Chavista leaders sanctioned by the United States or accused before the courts of that country, for which there has been speculation about the possible potential of a hypothetical collaboration of Saab with the US authorities.
The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, who does not recognize the Maduro government, celebrated in a trill the news of Saab’s extradition.
Alex Saab’s extradition is a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption that has led to the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. Colombia has supported and will continue to support the US in an investigation against a transnational crime ring led by Saab.
– Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) October 16, 2021
Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC News Mundo. Download the latest version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss out on our best content.