Caracas, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – October 18, 2021): A fugitive businessman accused of acting as a money launderer for the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday that he would not collaborate with the United States, one day after his extradition to the country of Cape Verde.
Maduro said in a televised address on Sunday night that Alex Saab’s extradition on Saturday was “one of the most vile and vulgar injustices that have been committed in decades.” Authorities had organized a pro-Saab rally earlier Sunday in Caracas, in which his wife, Camilla Fabri, read aloud a letter from him.
âI will face my trial with complete dignity,â Saab said in the letter. âI want to be clear: I don’t have to collaborate with the United States. I haven’t committed any crime.
“I declare that I am in full possession of my means and that I am not suicidal, in case I am murdered and then (they) say that I have committed suicide.” Saab, a Colombian national, and his business partner Alvaro Pulido are accused in the United States of running a network that exploited food aid destined for Venezuela, an oil-rich country mired in an acute economic crisis.
They reportedly transferred $ 350 million from Venezuela to accounts they controlled in the United States and other countries. They face up to 20 years in prison.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement that Saab was scheduled to appear in Florida court on Monday and expressed âadmirationâ to authorities in Cape Verde for their assistance in the case.
Venezuela has reacted with fury, suspending talks with the US-backed opposition to end the country’s political and economic crisis.
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 Venezuelan opposition has described Saab as a leader doing shady deals for Maduro’s populist socialist regime.
Colombian President Ivan Duque on Saturday hailed Saab’s extradition, calling it “a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption” which he said flourished under Maduro’s government.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognized as the country’s interim president by the United States and more than 50 other countries, also welcomed the move.
“We Venezuelans, who have seen justice kidnapped for years, respect and celebrate the justice system in democratic countries like Cape Verde,” he tweeted.
In a development not officially linked to Saab’s extradition, soon after the news broke, six former oil executives under house arrest for corruption in Venezuela were taken to an undisclosed prison.
They had worked for Citgo, a US subsidiary of the state-owned oil company PDVSA. Five of the six hold U.S. citizenship and the other is a permanent resident of the United States.
“US detainees in Venezuela are now being used as political pawns,” said US Democratic Party heavyweight Bill Richardson, who led an unsuccessful mission to Venezuela to demand the leaders’ release last year.
Richardson has managed international negotiations for a number of prominent American inmates.
“We will continue to press for their release,” he said.
Cape Verde agreed last month to extradite Saab to the United States, despite protests from Venezuela, who said he had been kidnapped by Washington.
“Venezuela denounces the kidnapping of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab by the government of the United States in complicity with the authorities of Cape Verde,” the government of Caracas said in a statement.
Congress President Jorge Rodriguez said the government would not attend the fourth round of talks with the opposition due to start in Mexico City on Sunday “as a deep expression of our protest against the brutal aggression” against Saab.
Rodriguez heads the government delegation for the negotiations and had hoped to make Saab one of its members until his arrest.
Roberto Deniz, a reporter who covered the Saab story for Venezuelan investigative news site Armando.info, said last month that the Caracas regime was desperate to have him released.
“Clearly there is a lot of fear, not just because it can reveal information about bribes, where the money has been moved and the prices inflated,” Deniz said. , but also because Saab “was the bridge for many of them. deals that Maduro’s regime is starting to make with other allied countries.”