On November 1, two weeks after the extradition of Alex Saab, businessman and alleged financier of the Nicolás Maduro Venezuelan regime, from Cape Verde in Africa, to the United States, federal prosecutors in Miami dismissed seven of the eight money laundering charges against him. According to media outlets, such as The Miami Herald and Reuters, this was part of an agreement with the Cape Verde government to obtain his extradition to the United States.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida filed an indictment against Saab for laundering $350 million of funds from the Venezuelan regime, including wire transfers to the Florida banking system. Authorities arrested the Colombian-Lebanese businessman on June 12, 2020, when he stopped in Cape Verde on his way to Iran, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued through Interpol by the United States. In late October 2020, the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council reported that Saab was helping facilitate the relationship with Tehran and had been working on a gold-for-gas deal.
Despite the lesser charges, the businessman faces up to 20 years in prison, which prosecutors say is related to a scheme that defrauded a Venezuelan housing program that was supposed to benefit poor people.
The case against Saab — whom the regime considers to be a diplomat — led to a suspension of talks with the opposition that had been under way since August to find a solution to the country’s humanitarian crisis, Maduro said on the state-run channel Venezolana de Televisión, a day prior to the businessman’s extradition on October 17, 2021.
“Unfortunately, the Maduro delegation did not arrive […],” Gerardo Blyde, leader of the Venezuelan Unitary Platform, said in a statement, in view of the absence of the regime’s delegation in the negotiation process in Mexico. “The millions of Venezuelans who have had to emigrate to look for a future that the country doesn’t provide for them, as well as the lack of democratic institutions attached to the Constitution, cannot wait. No individual is more important than the Venezuelan people.”
“By suspending participation in these negotiations, the Maduro regime, on the other hand, has made very clear that it is putting its interests once again above the interests of the Venezuela people. Just think about it. They are putting the case of one individual above the welfare, above the well-being, above the livelihoods of the millions of Venezuelans who have made clear their aspirations for democracy,” Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said at an October 18 press conference.
Saab, whom the Maduro regime has been desperately trying to free, is considered to hold State secrets, and attempts to obtain a confession from him, in exchange for a reduced sentence, according to the regime, could compromise Venezuela’s national security, the AP news agency reported on November 1.