Businessman Alex Saab, considered the leading figure of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, will have to serve a year in prison in the United States on October 16. without a date for the start of his trial for money laundering and amid speculation that it is the subject of negotiations between the two countries.
The trial of this Colombian-born Lebanese businessman nationalized Venezuelan for money laundering was initially scheduled for Tuesday, October 11, but it has been postponed without date.
It is not known whether those who proclaimed Saab would reveal Maduro’s secrets to US authorities a year ago were right, as nothing has emerged about it.
However, some interesting things are known from October 16, 2021, such as the Saab one collaborated with the United States for a year in a “proactive” way. providing information on his illegal activities and contracts with the government of Venezuela and that he would surrender himself to US justice.
The documents also indicate that in 2016, represented by an American and Colombian lawyer, Saab met with DEA and FBI agents in Bogota.
An intricate and delayed process
So far, the trial against Saab has focused on clarifying whether, as the defense claims, he held a position in Venezuela with diplomatic immunity, which, if accepted by the court presided over by Judge Robert N. Scola, could release him from trial.
Last May, a United States appeals court. rejected an appeal on the subject of immunity advanced by Saab and referred the case to the court of Miami.
Saab, 50, was extradited to the United States on October 16, 2021 from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa, where he was arrested in 2020 following an international arrest warrant required by US justice.
According to the indictment, between 2011 and at least 2015, Saab and its partner Álvaro Pulido, who is a fugitive, conspired with others to launder the proceeds of a corruption network based on bribes aimed at obtaining contracts for the implementation of public projects and fraud against the exchange control system in Venezuela.
Saab and Pulido are accused of having moved from Venezuela, via the United States, roughly 350 million dollars to accounts they owned or controlled in other countries, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The businessman pleaded “not guilty” in November 2021 and faces a sentence of around 20 years.
On February 28, President Maduro said in a virtual speech before the UN Human Rights Council that the Saab trial in the United States “is fraught with grave vices and aberrant distortions.”
The “kidnapping” of Saab was the reason given by the Venezuelan government to suspend the dialogue it had held in Mexico with the opposition in October last year.
assumptions and modifications
In the year following Saab’s arrival in Miami, there were some signs of rapprochement between the United States and Venezuela.
In May, the government of President Joe Biden announced that, at the request of the Venezuelan opposition, it would withdraw some economic sanctions against Venezuela, to allow the oil company Chevron to negotiate with the state-owned PDVSA “the terms of any future business” in the South American country
However, Washington has made it clear that this measure “it will not lead to any increase in the income of the scheme“and that it does not involve a change in policies regarding Venezuela and has warned that he is willing to tighten sanctions against that country if he sees the reasons.
On October 1 came the surprise of the release of two grandchildren of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, sentenced to 18 years in prison for drug trafficking in the US, who were exchanged for seven Americans detained without trial in Venezuela.
Venezuelan exiles in the US shouted to the sky for the decision that the Biden government called “difficult “and” painful“.
Additionally, some naysayers have claimed that Saab was indeed what Maduro wanted to go home, such as Gustavo Tarre, representative of Juan Guaidó’s OAS, that he The United States considers Venezuela’s interim president since 2018.
In an interview published by Miami’s Diario de las Américas, Tarre, who was barred from attending the recent OAS meeting in Lima, said the Maduro government has proposed the United States to release all political prisoners in Venezuela in exchange for Alex Saab.
According to Voice of America, a US government broadcaster, an official who spoke anonymously to reporters after the release of Maduro’s grandchildren on October 1 was asked if the release of Alex Saab had been considered and responded to put the question to the Justice Department.