Juan José and Reinaldo Slebi de la Rosa are golfers, business owners in Colombia and Panama and members of an exclusive Barranquilla club.
In the sandy they say they were near Álex Saab Moran, before he became a target of the United States justice, as the alleged launderer and front man of Nicolás Maduro.
(We invite you to read: The Bogota woman in the DEA’s sights for turns and links with Álex Saab).
And those close to Saab add that it was they who introduced him to Álvaro Pulido, another of those who appear in the indictment for laundering, in excess of 350 million dollars and linked to corruption in the bowels of the Venezuelan regime.
But those social and circumstantial links between Saab and the Slebi – who apparently also coincided in the World Cup in Russia – are not the ones that interest the DEA.
(You may be interested in: Álex Saab failed to get the African Court to order his release).
EL TIEMPO established that among the transactions that appear in the file that served as support to request the capture of Saab in Cape Verde (on June 13) and now his extradition, there are at least seven in which the businessmen are mentioned.
EL TIEMPO investigated and established that DEA agents documented that Saab moved at least $ 420,000 to the United States
Sources familiar with the process confirmed to this newspaper that the money orders are linked to a credit card owned by Juan José Slebi, which protected Saab and Pulido: the numbers are 37695001271838 and 371695001272002, with an expiration date of October 2016.
(Further: Why is Álex Saab already preparing suitcases?).
EL TIEMPO investigated and established that DEA agents documented that Saab moved at least $ 420,000 to the United States.
Bribery and exports
It is being investigated if the silver is linked to exports of construction material, which entered Venezuela from Ecuador, irregularly. In fact, Saab was also investigated in that country for money laundering.
(You may be interested in: Saab says it has 26 cuts and that $ 700 million is not theirs).But, before the Cape Verdean justice, Álex Saab – Nicolás Maduro’s supposed special agent – has given his own version of these turns.
In folios that rest in the extradition process against him, to which EL TIEMPO had access, It is claimed that extended credit cards did exist, but they were supposedly used to cover legal expenses and not bribes to Venezuelan officials.
In fact, members of his defense in Cape Verde go around saying that the evidence of the legality of the money transfers had already been gathered and that, therefore, the United States had to withdraw seven of the eight charges it presented for extradition, and that they involved the juicy credit card moves.
Saab, they say, had no need to pay bribes in Venezuela, because its businesses had the blessing of the regime. In addition, the entry of material for the construction of subsidized houses was exempt from import duties and customs fees. And they add that there is evidence that the houses were built.
On the subject of the cards, they assure that it was a favor of some former allies and that the issue came up because they distanced themselves from them, after they had supposedly offered to pull strings to get them American visas.
(It may be of your interest: Maduro’s regime comes out again in defense of Álex Saab).
“Álvaro Pulido has never had a visa to the United States and Saab had it years ago. The only one who appears with a visa is his son Shady, who was granted it, from 2014 to 2018: first, to study in Los Angeles and at the New York Film Academy and then, to work on film projects, “explained sources aware of the case in Cape Verde.
The charges against Saab are solid and that, in the case of credit cards, it is not true that they talk about paying bribes: US.
¿EE? US dropped charges?
Reporters from EL TIEMPO sought answers on this issue in the United States and federal agents were emphatic that it was not true that any charges against Saab have been dropped.
(In context: Saab says hooded men beat him to sign extradition).
Although they admit that seven were withdrawn within the extradition request to Cape Verde, all remain firm in the accusation that is advancing in a Miami court.
“The legislation of Cape Verde does not allow that the charges to an extradited person exceed a limit in years of sentence. For this reason, only the main charge was left there: money laundering, ”said a federal source.
(In context: Cape Verde says Álex Saab is ‘self-mutilating’ in prison).
And he added that the charges against Saab are solid and that, in the case of credit cards, it is not true that there is talk of paying bribes. What is being questioned is the illicit origin of the funds that Saab injected into the financial system of the United States.
And he recalled that the Barranquillero is considered the route to reach the illicit fortunes of members of the regime, as well as movements of dollars and gold to Turkey, Iran and even Russia.
As for the Barranquilla businessmen, there were no comments on their responsibility or their current situation before the justice of that country.
(It could be of your interest: TO. Saab says Cape Verde police looted its diplomatic briefcase). To establish their role and find out if they are third parties in good faith, EL TIEMPO looked for them through their mobile phones, their home phones and an email.
But as of press time, they had not responded to the direct messages left to them.
As for Saab, he keeps betting he’ll be free in days, but the DEA thinks otherwise.