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Maduro’s ally extradited to the US says he won’t collaborate with American justice – 10/17/2021 – World

Extradited on Saturday to the United States, where he is facing a corruption suit, Colombian businessman Alex Saab, considered a figurehead of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, said in a letter that he has “nothing to collaborate” with the American justice system.

“I will face [o processo] with complete dignity. I want to make it clear that I have nothing to collaborate with the United States, I have not committed any crime,” he said, according to a letter read by the businessman’s wife, Camilla Fabri, in a protest in Caracas against the arrest, which was attended by about 300 people.

Dictator Nicolás Maduro even went to Venezuelan state TV this Sunday to criticize the process. It is “one of the most ignoble and vulgar injustices committed in the world in recent decades,” he said in a statement.

The 49-year-old businessman and his partner Álvaro Pulido, whose whereabouts are unknown, are accused in the United States of running a chain that ran a food distribution program in Venezuela. They are suspected of transferring around US$350 million (R$1.9 billion) to accounts they controlled in the US and abroad and could face up to 20 years in prison.

Accused of money laundering in Miami in 2019, Saab was arrested last June in Cape Verde during a stopover on a flight. He will be taken to court this Monday (18) in Florida, the US Department of Justice said.

Out there

There is an expectation that, in prison, the businessman can “reveal information about bribes, routes through which money moved and overpricing” involving the Maduro government, says journalist Roberto Deniz, who investigated Saab and is now wanted in Venezuela for ” incitement to hatred”. “[Saab] He was the intermediary for many of the deals that the Nicolás Maduro regime made with allied countries,” he says.

According to him, the Venezuelan dictatorship has never done so much for anyone. The government tried to free the businessman a number of times, claiming that the Colombian was being ill-treated and tortured in prison.

In his speech on Sunday, Maduro said that the country “is moving at the United Nations, in New York, in Geneva, in the bodies for the defense of human rights” to solve the “kidnapping” of the businessman. “They took Saab without telling the lawyers , to the family, no one. A kidnapping across the board from the US government,” he said.

The businessman’s wife said she learned from Saab’s sister about the extradition process from Cape Verde to the US, which was carried out “behind the lawyers’ backs and our backs,” she said. “One guard told his sister, he said simply: ‘They accelerated the extradition,'” he said.

On Saturday, Maduro’s regime announced it would interrupt dialogue with the country’s opposition, which was scheduled to resume this Sunday in Mexico City. Saab had been named a member of the Venezuelan government team in negotiations with the opposition.

After the extradition, Venezuelan security forces took six US-linked executives to a penitentiary — five naturalized American citizens and one permanent resident — who were already under house arrest. Imprisoned since 2017, the oil industry entrepreneurs were convicted of corruption last year, in processes that the US government claims are riddled with irregularities.

Son of a Lebanese businessman living in Barranquilla, Colombia, Saab started working as a salesman of promotional keyrings before entering the textile sector, where he had 100 warehouses that exported to more than ten countries, according to official biographies.

“Guided by his cosmopolitan entrepreneur spirit, he seeks to transfer his entrepreneurial skills across the border” and moves to Venezuela “interested in the construction business”, reports a series on his YouTube channel entitled “Alex Saab, anti-blockade agent”.

The first contract he signed in Venezuela was in 2011, at the presidential palace in Miraflores. At the time, Maduro was the chancellor of President Hugo Chávez, and a young Saab closed a “strategic alliance” for “the constitution and installation of kits for the construction of prefabricated houses”. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos attended the event.

It was with Maduro’s arrival at the country’s leadership that Saab became “almost immediately the consenting contractor and then his plenipotentiary minister” behind the scenes, Deniz pointed out.

According to the journalist, the businessman won a contract for the construction of gyms worth US$ 100 million, paid in advance, and an oil contract with an inexperienced ghost company, which ended up falling after complaints from other companies in the sector.

In 2016, Maduro created the Local Supply and Production Committees, a subsidized food distribution plan, at a time of shortages of more than two thirds of basic products. Saab then became one of the suppliers, reaching important commercial agreements.

In 2018, according to the version reported in his YouTube series, he assumed “as a civil servant” the mission of acquiring in Russia and Iran “food, medicine, spare parts for refineries and different companies”. Saab is proud, for example, of the Iranian fuel route that he created “by the instructions, guidance and vision of President Nicolas Maduro.”

​Former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega called Saab the “chief frontman of the autocracy” of Maduro and his family and said his extradition “is an achievement for those of us who seek justice against those responsible for the tragedy and the chaos that Venezuelans live in.”

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