- BBC World News
The Supreme Court of Justice of Cape Verde authorized this Wednesday the extradition of Colombian businessman Alex Saab to the United States.
Saab has been detained in Cape Verde, a West African archipelago, since June 12, 2020, at the request of the US.
This country accuses him 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.
The defense of Saab, from Barranquilla of Lebanese origin, said it will appeal the ruling.
“The defense is currently studying the decision and we will issue a substantial statement later,” Saab’s legal team told EFE news agency.
“In the meantime, we can affirm that we will present an appeal to the Constitutional Court (of Cape Verde) and we reaffirm our confidence that Ambassador Saab will be released,” they added.
what he is acussed?
Saab, 49, had been detained in Cape Verde last June when the private plane in which he was traveling made a stopover to refuel, as part of a journey from Tehran (Iran) to Caracas, Venezuela.
The lawyer was requested by Interpol, accused of crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering and illicit enrichment in nine countries.
At that time, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry described the arrest as “arbitrary” and “irregular” and considered that it was added “to the actions of aggression, blockade and siege of the United States.” against the Latin American country.
In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against Saab and another Colombian businessman, Álvaro Enrique Pulido, for allegedly having laundered up to US $ 350 million that they would have obtained through the exchange control system in Venezuela.
In addition, according to former Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, a former ally of Chávez and today a critic of the Venezuelan government, Saab operated as a front man for a Maduro company in the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), a program to distribute to Venezuelans that they were registered a box with rice, chicken and oil, among other things.
The food was imported by government contractors. Saab was one of those contractors.
In addition, the US authorities accuse him of breaching a contract to deliver housing construction materials or of incurring cost overruns in the social program Gran Misión Vivienda, run by the Hugo Chávez government.
If found guilty of these charges, he could be sentenced in the US to up to 20 years in prison.
With the decision of this Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Cape Verde ratifies the ruling of a lower court that had already approved the extradition.
“The judges of the Supreme Court agree to dismiss the appeal (of appeal) and confirm, for all legal purposes, the contested decision (the ruling in favor of extradition),” the Court said, according to the ruling that the news agency agreed to. EFE.
On Monday, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to which Cape Verde belongs, had rejected the extradition request and ordered the release of Saab.
But the Supreme Court of Cape Verde said that this decision was not binding on the country, detailed EFE.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.