Sunday, August 1

The latest attempt by the Chavistas to save Saab

Washington Correspondent



A recent official report prepared for the Capitol entitled ‘Venezuela, the challenges for US legislators in 2021’, identifies Chavismo as the main challenge for Washington in the entire American continent, and affirms that “the Department of Justice seeks the extradition of Alex Saab, a money launderer who is accused of illegally trafficking in gold on behalf of Maduro, whose accusation refers to his ties with Hezbollah. For the United States, the case of Saab, on the verge of extradition from Cape Verde, where he is now in detention for one year, is an example to follow in the future.

The aforementioned report, in fact, states: “The Capitol may consider new ways to support efforts to seize illicit crimes linked to the Maduro government, persecute corrupt Venezuelan officials and their associates, and respond to foreign influences in Venezuela.”

Saab was arrested in Cape Verde on June 12, 2020, wanted by the US for money laundering as a front man for Nicolás Maduro, and a central node in a complex network of drug trafficking, money laundering and large-scale fraud with public contracts and government aid. As the report stated, a 2019 prosecution lawsuit, before a New York court, directly accuses Saab, nicknamed ‘Alexei’, ‘Ali Hassan’ and ‘Rachid’, of conspiring to materially support Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia with ties to Iran accused by the US of terrorism.

The latest US investigations accuse the businessman, born in Colombia but settled in Venezuela before his arrest, of serving as Maduro’s intermediary with Iran to circumvent sanctions. It is also in search and capture by eight counts of bribery and money laundering in Florida funneling more than 350 million dollars (295 million euros) to accounts abroad, including the US Now, US federal agencies amass evidence of their ties to Iran.

Authorized extradition

The Supreme Court of Justice of Cape Verde authorized on March 17 the extradition of Saab to the US Since January, he was under house arrest. While the details of this were being finalized, an international campaign of allies of Chavismo was launched to prevent it. Maduro and his associates, such as José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the so-called Puebla Group, consider Saab a political prisoner. In the same vein, the businessman’s lawyer, the judge disqualified in Spain for prevarication, Baltasar Garzón, has ruled.

In the United States, similar to that group have also been launched, habitual in the defense of Maduro and Chavismo before Washington. A group called ‘Alliance for Global Justice’, that has its origins in the so-called Network of Solidarity with Nicaragua, a US organization that supports the Sandinistas, has launched a campaign backed by Noam Chomsky and other similar intellectuals, in which he denounces that Saab “was kidnapped, detained and tortured under orders of the Trump Administration.” “We ask President Biden to withdraw the demand for Alex Saab’s extradition to the US,” he added in an open letter to Biden.

The aim of Saab partners is pressure biden to change the course taken by Trump. One of his reasoning is that “Saab is fighting cancer and urgently needs to be seen by its doctors in Venezuela.”

Just as that campaign was being launched, the United Nations Human Rights Committee made an unexpected request to Cape Verde to postpone the extradition of Saab “while his case is examined by the Committee or until further notice”, and asked the country African to take steps to ensure that the prisoner has “access to adequate medical care. The letter, dated in Geneva, was signed by the special rapporteurs of the Human Rights Committee on New Communications and Provisional Measures, Helene Tigroudja and Arif Bulkan.

Report of ill-treatment

Saab had filed a complaint with that body for alleged “torture and ill-treatment” in his arrest, as well as “inhuman and degrading conditions of detention due to lack of medical care”. He had previously reported that he had been interrogated and tortured by US agents while in prison, something that both Washington and Cape Verde denied.

There are many efforts by the Chavista regime to save this businessman with large accounts in tax havens from extradition and trial in the United States. Saab had his first contract with the Chavista regime in 2011, by taking over the construction of low-cost housing for 685 million dollars. At the signing of the agreement in November of that year, the then Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chávez, in addition to Maduro as chancellor. That contract allowed Saab, according to the US Attorney’s Office, to establish an entire money laundering operation after achieving a very advantageous exchange rate from the Government of Venezuela.

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