A new move occurred in the judicial chess of the extradition of Alex Saab. The Barlovento Court, a group of islands in Cape Verde, decided on Friday, July 31, to approve the extradition of the Colombian businessman, identified as an alleged front man of Nicolás Maduro by the United States. In that country he faces charges for money laundering, as in Colombia, where several properties have already been confiscated. Saab’s defense, led by the law firm of former judge Baltasar Garzón, announced on Tuesday that it will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court within the next 10 days.
Garzón’s team denounced that Saab was denied the right to testify before the Court. “Despite the fact that said Court had already issued the resolution, it did not notify it until yesterday [lunes 3 de agosto]”He says in a statement. “Mr. Saab was waiting for the date of the hearing prescribed by law, in which to exercise, with equal arms, his right of defense. This decision violates due process, leaving him without the possibility of defense in this instance ”, add the lawyers.
The defense alleges that it has been arbitrarily decided to execute the delivery “to the persecuting agent for political reasons,” in reference to the United States. The main argument of the lawyers is that Saab acted as a special envoy of the Venezuelan state, so international law protects him. The businessman was arrested, following an Interpol red alert, when he landed in Cape Verde at a technical stop on a trip in search of supplies for Venezuela. Rutsel Silvestre Jacinto, a member of the defense team, explained on the Colombian radio station Blue Radio that Saab frequently carried out diplomatic missions on behalf of the Government of Nicolás Maduro, because many of its officials are sanctioned by Washington. However, the Colombian has also been included in the Treasury lists since June 2019.
In the event that the defense appeal fails, an application for amparo will be submitted to the Constitutional Court. The lawyers had already tried two habeas corpus to release Saab who were denied. “This decision has been taken partially, based exclusively on the allegations of the prosecutors and laminating the rights of the defense of Mr. Saab,” the statement added.
Cape Verde’s Justice Minister Janine Lélis pointed out that the decision on Saab’s extradition request was based on an opinion of the Public Ministry in which the government “does not interfere”. “Cape Verde has a duty to cooperate. This duty is stronger when it comes to matters related to drug trafficking and money laundering offenses. We responded to a request for international collaboration and since then the process continues its judicial course ”, he explained in the local press.
Until his arrest, Saab had been in the shadows of the Venezuelan government. He had never been recognized as a political agent before, as Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza pointed out when he vigorously rejected the arrest. That statement was followed by the mobilization of Maduro’s international allies to press for his freedom.
Saab began its contracts with Chavismo in 2011. The businesses that expanded significantly in 2015, when it became a supplier of the questioned CLAP subsidized food program, whereby tons of low-quality food have been bought at a premium to sell to poorer. At that time, he became the most favored contractor of Chavismo with business importing medicines, oil and coal, sale of gold and construction. Extensive journalistic investigations point to him as Maduro’s financial operator, and assure that he acted as a hinge in the recent case of exchange of barrels of oil for corn and water tanks that Mexico is investigating.