Extradition of a relative of Maduro to the USA, ire of Caracas

© KEYSTONE / AP / Ariana Cubillos

Alex Saab, a businessman close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and accused of money laundering was extradited from Cape Verde to the United States on Saturday. This sparked the anger of Caracas, which suspended its participation in the dialogue with the opposition.

Considered an important intermediary of Venezuelan power, Alex Saab “is on the plane en route to the United States,” said a source within his legal team.

He is supposed to “make his first judicial hearing Monday, October 18” in a Florida court, the US Department of Justice said in a statement, confirming this extradition.

The Colombian businessman, 49, and his partner Alvaro Pulido are accused in the United States of being at the head of a vast network which allowed the socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and his regime to hijack for their benefit food aid to Venezuela.

They are believed to have transferred some $ 350 million (about 322 million francs) from Venezuela to accounts they controlled in the United States and other countries.

Arrested in Cape Verde

They face up to 20 years in prison. Alex Saab, who also has Venezuelan nationality and a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, was indicted in July 2019 in Miami for money laundering, and was arrested during a plane stopover in Cape Verde, off the coast of the ‘West Africa, in June 2020.

The extradition of Saab by Cape Verde, which had agreed to arrest him, seemed inevitable after yet another court decision on September 7 and more than two years of proceedings.

“We have been informed that Alex Saab had been put on a United States Department of Justice plane and sent to this country,” said Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro, one of his attorneys in Cape Verde. “The extradition is illegal because the procedure was not yet final. The extradition was therefore agreed between the Ministry of Justice of Cape Verde, the Constitutional Court and the United States Embassy outside the law “, said Me Pinto Monteiro.

Suspended negotiations

The extradition sparked the ire of Caracas. “Our delegation announces that it is suspending its participation at the negotiating and dialogue table. We will not attend the (fourth) round which was to begin on October 17 in Mexico City, in protest at the brutal aggression (…) against Alex Saab “, according to the text read on television by the President of Parliament Jorge Rodriguez, head of the delegation of power.

Mr. Saab had been appointed as a member of the delegation of power for the previous round in September. The members of this delegation had held up photos of him in Mexico City.

Power and opposition have started negotiations since August to try to get the country out of the rut. On the one hand, the government wants the removal of sanctions imposed by countries that do not recognize the election of President Maduro. On the other hand, the opposition wants to obtain free and transparent elections in view of the regional ballot on November 21, but especially the presidential election of 2024.

The main opposition parties have broken with their boycott strategy of recent years (presidential 2018 and legislative 2020).

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