Maduro furious with extradition of US friend accused of money laundering

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Alex Saab, a businessman closely associated with him Nicolas Maduro, accused of money laundering, was extradited from Cape Verde to the United States, a move that angered Caracas, which decided to react by suspending its participation in the dialogue with the opposition.

Alex Saab, who is considered an intermediary in her government Venezuela“He is on a plane flying to the United States,” said a source close to his team of lawyers.

He is expected to be brought “before a judge on October 18”, in Florida, the US Department of Justice said in a statement, confirming the extradition.

The 49-year-old Colombian businessman and his partner Alvaro Poulido have been accused by US authorities of leading a network that allowed Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and his government to misuse food aid to Venezuela.

They reportedly transferred about $ 350 million (302 million euros) from Venezuela to bank accounts they controlled in the US and other countries. If convicted, they risk up to 20 years in prison.

Alex Saab, who also holds a Venezuelan nationality and a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, was prosecuted in July 2019 in Miami for money laundering and arrested at an intermediate airliner in Cape Verde off the west coast of South Africa in 2020.

Roberto Dennis, a journalist who covered the case, commented that “everything we know about Alex Saab and the great corruption at the top level of government in Venezuela is largely due to the justice” of Cape Verde, which “resisted pressures “.

“Never” Caracas “had fought so much for someone. What explains that he moved earth and sky for him? It can reveal things about interconnections, about the circulation of funds, about over-indebtedness (…). “It’s the driving force behind the Maduro regime’s dealings with allied countries,” he said recently.

Mr Saab’s extradition from Cape Verde, which agreed to arrest him, seemed inevitable following a ninth court hearing on September 7, after a process that lasted more than a year.

“We have learned that Alex Saab boarded a US Department of Justice aircraft and was sent to that country,” said Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro, a member of his Cape Verde lawyers group. “Extradition is illegal, as the process was not over yet”.

THE Ivan Duke, the President of Colombia, one of the main political opponents of Caracas, did not hide his satisfaction with the development, seeing in the publication a “Victory in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption favored by the regime of Nicolas Maduro.”

The development sparked outrage in Caracas, which “suspended its participation” in the dialogue it has been holding for some time with the opposition. “We will not take part in the (fourth) round, which was to begin on October 17 in Mexico, in protest of the barbaric attack (…) against Alex Saab,” said Parliament Speaker Jorge Rodriguez. .

Opposition leader Juan Guido has denounced the “irresponsible” decision to suspend talks to find a solution to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.

Mr Saab was named a member of the government delegation in the first round of talks in September, when members of the delegation raised posters with photos of him.

Government and opposition began negotiations in August. The government wants to lift the sanctions imposed on it by states that do not recognize the re-election of Nicolas Maduro. The opposition, which has decided to change its abstention tactics (from the 2018 presidential elections and the 2020 parliamentary elections), calls for free and transparent elections, initially in the process of the regional elections (November 21st), above all in the presidential elections. of 2024.

Julio Borges, an opposition leader, told AFP that the extradition of Alex Saab would “bring to justice someone who stole millions of dollars from Venezuelan citizens, who is directly responsible for the famine and the human crisis.” in the oil-producing country of Latin America.

The government’s Ministry of Communications opposite denounced the “kidnapping” of Alex Saab.

Although there is no official connection between the two cases, six former executives of CITGO, the subsidiary of Venezuela’s public oil company PdVSA, were taken back to prison this Sunday, one of their lawyers told AFP. They were sentenced to between eight and 13 years in prison for corruption in November 2020. They were placed under house arrest in April, which was seen as a gesture of goodwill by President Maduro to Washington, which has repeatedly called for his release.

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