The Foreign Minister of the Nicolás Maduro regime warned Alex Saab, the Colombian businessman and alleged front man of the dictator who is under arrest in Cape Verde, not to cooperate with the US authorities in the event of effectively being extradited to the North American country. The information, to which the Reuters agency had access, is derived from a document presented in court by the detainee’s lawyers.
Saab, arrested in June in Cape Verde over an Interpol red notice, is charged in the United States with money laundering linked to acts of corruption when arranging the supply contracts for the food subsidy program administered by the regime, known as CLAP.
According to the United States, between November 2011 and September 2015 Saab and its partner Álvaro Enrique Pulido conspired with others to launder their illicit profits and transfer them from Venezuela to US bank accounts, which is why Washington has jurisdiction in the case. A US government official indicated in July 2019 that with the CLAPs, the Colombian businessman and three of Maduro’s stepsons apparently made “hundreds of millions of dollars”.
In a filing Thursday night in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Saab’s lawyers argued that he should not be considered a fugitive from US justice because the Venezuelan government appointed him a “special envoy” in 2018.
The lawyers included a letter that the regime’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, sent to Saab on July 1, when he was already detained in Cape Verde. The official addressed him as the “Special Envoy to the Islamic Republic of Iran” and noted that Saab had information considered “classified” by Venezuela.
“In the event of being extradited to the United States, you will be pressured by any method, legitimate or not, for the disclosure of such information,” Arreaza wrote. “You are subject to Venezuelan laws and are obliged to maintain the highest levels of secrecy, confidentiality and loyalty with respect to the classified information that you possess.”, He added.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the agency.
At the time of his arrest, Saab was heading to Iran to negotiate shipments of fuel and humanitarian supplies to Venezuela, his lawyers previously told Reuters. His plane had stopped in Cape Verde to refuel.
Iran sent more than 2 million barrels of fuel last year to help solve the gasoline shortage in Venezuela, whose oil industry is under US sanctions.
Saab is one step away from being extradited to the North American country. On January 4, the Barlavento Court of Appeal determined – like the court of first instance – that this should be the fate of the Colombian.
The latest news regarding Saab’s legal situation took place on Thursday, when the same court authorized his house arrest. “The immediate release orders will be issued after the presentation of adequate housing endorsed by the criminal authorities, and in which (Saab) must remain at all times while the ongoing extradition process continues”, Says the document, which reverses previous rejections of the same order.
Already on November 30, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc to which Cape Verde belongs, had ruled a change in the prison regime of the accused so that he could have access to his family , lawyers and doctors given their alleged health problems.
According to Saab’s defense, the health status of its client is “weak” due to a “existing cancer condition”, Of which no further details have been provided.
The Cape Verde Court authorized house arrest for Nicolás Maduro’s front man, Alex Saab
Luis Almagro assured that the extradition of Alex Saab is key to dissolving the Maduro regime