Mexico City, Mexico, November 3, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A US judge dismissed all but one charge against Venezuelan government envoy Alex Saab as part of a deal between the United States and the Republic of Cape Verde to facilitate his extradition. Saab still faces one count of conspiracy to launder money, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Court filings on Monday revealed that Saab’s controversial extradition to the US was made contingent on assurances to Cape Verde that he would face no more than 20 years imprisonment, the maximum allowed by the African country’s laws. The seven other charges of money laundering, dismissed by US District Judge Robert Scola, would have each also carried up to 20 years in prison.
The order of dismissal signed by US prosecutors made note of “assurances made to the Republic of Cabo Verde during the extradition process.” The two countries do not share an extradition treaty.
The political guarantees made by the US to Cape Verde adds yet another layer to the complicated legal case involving Saab. His arrest and subsequent extradition was described by the Venezuelan government as a “kidnapping” and has been subject to intense criticism due to the irregularities in the process.
The Colombo-Venezuelan businessman was detained in June 2020 during a stopover in the African archipelago. His eventual extradition ran afoul of a ruling by the regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Court, which had ordered Cabo Verde to release Saab and awarded him damages. Cape Verde is a signatory to the ECOWAS Court, which is considered an international court of primary jurisdiction.
"The political nature of this case is becoming increasingly clear. It is clearly a kidnapping,” stated Venezuelan Vice President for Communications Alfred Nazareth Ñáñez.
The extradition of Saab had immediate political repercussions, with the Venezuelan government pulling out of talks with the US-backed opposition. Caracas had recently appointed the businessman as a delegate at the Mexico-based talks, which were due to enter their fourth round the day after his extradition. Writer and activist Leonardo Flores argued the extradition was a subtle effort by the US to “sabotage” the dialogue efforts.
In response to the news that seven of the eight charges had been dropped, Camilla Fabri Saab, wife of the Venezuelan government envoy and the face of the campaign to secure his release, tweeted US prosecutors had “nothing consistent in the case.”
“We will continue defending the truth, and defending Venezuela, we will prove that my husband Alex is innocent,” she wrote.
Court filings also indicated that Saab’s arraignment hearing had been postponed to November 15, and that he had waived his right to appear in court, being instead represented by Henry Bell, one of his lawyers. Bell previously told Reuters that his client would plead not guilty.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.