Saab was accused of bribery to steal US$350 million from the state contract to build housing for the Venezuelan government.
Alex Saab, a businessman accused of laundering money on behalf of the Venezuelan government, pleaded not guilty in a US federal court in a case that caused tension between the two countries.
On Monday, Sabo wore a beige jumpsuit and was tied with his legs by five other prisoners when he entered the Miami court for interrogation.
Saab, 49, is accused of bribery and stealing US$350 million from a state contract to build housing for the Venezuelan government. After the dismissal of seven charges, he now faces a charge of conspiracy to launder money — up to 20 years in prison — which is the highest penalty allowed when Cape Verde agreed to extradite Saab to the United States last month.
Venezuela launched a full-scale diplomatic offensive involving its allies Russia and Cuba, defending Saab, saying that the Colombian-born businessman was a diplomat who performed a special humanitarian mission to Iran when his plane was refueling in the African Islands. Was detained during the period. .
His lawyer, Neil Shuster, spoke in the court as the representative of the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela diplomat” and then pleaded not guilty. During the proceedings, a small group of supporters of the Venezuelan government chanted “Free, free Alex Sabo” outside the court.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said at a book fair in Caracas this month: “He was hunted down, kidnapped and tortured for helping Venezuela.
Maduro’s allies described the pursuit of Saab as part of the US government’s “economic war” against Venezuela. This case has strained already tense relations between the United States and Venezuela.
But new court documents in related cases show that, although Saab is described as an anti-imperial revolutionary, he may have been secretly betraying the Venezuelan government to US officials for years.
The attorney for University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley disclosed the heavy news in a sentencing memorandum.
Sabo said through his lawyer that all his activities have been blessed by the Maduro government and that he has always been a “loyal citizen” of Venezuela.
Venezuela believes that Saab is a state secret, and said that any attempt to extract a confession may endanger Venezuela’s national security.
But it is not clear what influence the Venezuelans have to prevent Saab from cooperating with federal investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence.
While Sabo was being transported to the United States on a plane of the Department of Justice, the Maduro government suspended negotiations with the Venezuelan US-backed opposition in Mexico, accusing the Biden government of trying to sabotage the negotiations.
The Maduro government also put six American oil executives accused of corruption back in prison. They were placed under house arrest in another case of political charges characterized by false detention charges. They have received a rare appeal and are expected to appear in a Venezuelan court on Tuesday.
At the same time, the United States continued to exert pressure on Saab.
Soon after he arrived in the U.S., prosecutors in Miami released a new indictment, accusing his long-term business partner, fellow Colombian Alvaro Pulido (Alvaro Pulido) of creating a global business-Turkey, Hong Kong, A network of shell companies in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. Hide windfall profits and bribe payments related to overestimation of food contracts. Saab himself was sanctioned in 2019 for his role in the same so-called rebate program.
But Sabo’s importance to Maduro’s government is much deeper.
As the United States has increased its sanctions on Venezuela, he is believed to have become the main manipulator of the government, liaising with the international community to circumvent US restrictions. His trip to Iran was described by Maduro as a humanitarian mission aimed at reaching a deal to sell the country’s crude oil in exchange for much-needed fuel and other commodities.