The legal struggle over the extradition of Colombian businessman Alex Saab has reached a dead end. The Constitutional Court of Cape Verde, where he has been imprisoned since June 12, 2020, confirmed the constitutionality of the process followed against the Colombian who at the time of his arrest had a red alert in Interpol, required by the United States justice for laundering of money and designated as the alleged front man of Nicolás Maduro. This would be the last battle lost for the defense of the businessman, led by former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, to prevent his transfer.
The Constitutional Court of Cape Verde decided on August 13 the extradition of the businessman. Saab, however, filed a final appeal in which it alleged that its extradition process was initiated “by applying unconstitutional rules.” The response to this latest attempt to prove the innocence of the accused occurred this Wednesday. The highest Court agreed with the Barlavento Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Justice, two lower courts that had already authorized in 2020 and last March, respectively, the delivery of the alleged front man to the North American country. In practice, the 194-page ruling published on the Court’s website gives way to extradition.
Since his arrest, a maze of judicial resources has run through the case of the one who until then was in the shadows as the contractor most favored by the Venezuelan government, involved in food, oil, coal, construction and mining import businesses. The capture of Saab put Chavismo on the ropes, which immediately undertook an intense campaign in his defense and to clean up his image, to the point of initially appointing him a special envoy of the Government to manage food and fuel and then promoting him, even while in jail. to ambassador of Venezuela in the African Union. To this has been added a media and social media strategy that has included graffiti, murals, events and digital billboards displayed in the streets of Caracas with his face and the #FreeAlexSaab label. His defense has insisted that the case is politically motivated.
“My illegal detention has a totally political motivation and it is pathetic that the Government of Cape Verde has bowed the knee to (…) the United States,” Saab himself told EFE in an interview made at the beginning of last March from his captivity on the island of Sal, by assuring that he would “not collaborate” with Washington in case of being extradited. Garzón, like his defender, went so far as to affirm last year that “the US is orchestrating the Cape Verdean jurisdiction to achieve a political objective in its private war, its economic war and legal war, against Venezuela and all its senior officials. ”.
In the last 15 months, Saab’s lawyers have tried appeals and arguments to delay the process. The case has become a geopolitical issue in which Chavismo has mobilized its diplomatic allies. On December 2, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a bloc of countries to which Cape Verde belongs, ruled that it should be granted access, without restrictions, to specialist doctors of its choice, despite initial reluctance from the Cape Verdean authorities. In January the businessman received a measure of house arrest and last week his transfer from the island of Sal to Praia, the capital of the African island nation, was approved for health reasons.
Around the businessman there is an international network of opaque businesses that have allowed Maduro to evade the sanctions imposed by Washington with the exchange of barrels for oil for other goods, as EL PAÍS investigations have shown.
Saab faces charges in two US courts, accused of money laundering and of being a financial operator for the Chavista leader and his wife, Cilia Flores. Also in Colombia, where several properties have been seized and where he had to leave at the end of 2018 to avoid justice. That same year, the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office seized merchandise for the food bags of the Local Supply and Production Committees – the subsidized food program of the Venezuelan Government – for the payment of premiums on low-quality food. In July 2019, the formal accusations arrived in the United States for laundering 350 million dollars between 2011 and 2015 from Venezuela, then the sanctions of the Office for the Control of Assets Abroad for him and his partners and more seizures of assets he had in Italy with his wife, the Italian model Camilla Fabri. In 2020 he was finally arrested at the Praia airport, when he was making a technical stop to load gasoline on his route to Iran.
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