Practice your regional integration preaching, Falana charges Cape Verde

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Nigerian human rights lawyer Femi Falana has tasked the President of Cape Verde, Jorge Fonseca, to follow up on what he “preaches” about West African integration.

Mr. Falana made this accusation in the context of the duplicity perceived in Mr. Fonseca’s call for West African integration over his government’s refusal to respect the judgment of the ECOWAS Court ordering the release of the Detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab.

The human rights defender, who led Mr Saab’s legal team at the ECOWAS Court, spoke barely 24 hours after the President of Cape Verde reaffirmed what he called his country’s “firm will” to intensify regional integration.

Mr. Fonseca wished to increase “virtuous forms of movement of people and goods” in his message to Nana Akufo-Ado, President of the Heads of State of ECOWAS, to celebrate the 46th anniversary of the creation of the regional community.

In addition to gaining prominence in the Nigerian media space following Mr. Saab’s controversial detention, the West African archipelago recently made headlines for “ Unfairly ” banning three Nigerians from entering the country while allowing white foreign travelers to enter.

PREMIUM SCHEDULES also reported complaints of unfair treatment by Nigerians living in Cape Verde.

Reacting to this, Mr. Falana, in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES, expressed his skepticism over Mr. Fonseca’s comment which he described as possible platitude on the occasion of ECOWAS Day.

“I can only hope that Cape Verde will put into practice what it preaches. President Fonseca can show that his words are not just platitudes on ECOWAS Day by ensuring that Prime Minister Ulisses Correia and his ministers begin to respect all ECOWAS institutions, ”said Mr. Saab’s defense attorney.

President of Cape Verde.  Jorge Carlos Fonseca [PHOTO CREDIT: Unesco]
President of Cape Verde. Jorge Carlos Fonseca [PHOTO CREDIT: Unesco]

He reiterated in his response that the country had disregarded the ECOWAS Court for the “broken judgment” on the case of the Venezuelan diplomat who would mark 11 months of detention in Cape Verde in June 2021.

President Nicolas Maduro’s ally was arrested in June 2020 in Cape Verde at the request of the United States for money laundering and other financial crimes. Since then, there have been legal and diplomatic disputes between the parties involved.

“Cape Verde has, in the matter of HE Alex Saab, shown nothing but contempt and disrespect for the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court of Justice and the binding nature of its decisions,” said Mr. Falana.

He added: “I urge President Fonseca, especially as a fellow lawyer, to ensure that Cape Verde ends its contempt of the ECOWAS Court and immediately releases HE Alex Saab, which the Court ordered on March 15, 2021. “

TEXEM

He also advised the country to withdraw its declaration that it is not bound by the provisions of the Additional Protocol of the ECOWAS Court “which was endorsed by all ECOWAS member states at the Heads of State Summit. State and government meeting held in Accra, Ghana on January 19, 2005. ”

Mr. Falana had in March deposit a motion to the ECOWAS Commission asking that a sanction be imposed on Cape Verde for having snubbed the judgment of its regional court. In the motion, he called for the imposition of a travel ban in all ECOWAS member states against certain representatives of the Cape Verdean government and members of their families.

How Cape Verde snubbed the ECOWAS judgment

The ECOWAS tribunal, in a judgment of March 15, 2021, ordered Cape Verde to release the detained Venezuelan diplomat, Mr. Saab, and pay him compensation of $ 200,000 for his controversial detention on the island of L ‘West Africa.

The court, having determined that his arrest was made without the existence of an INTERPOL Red Notice and an arrest warrant, also ordered the country not to extradite him to the United States as planned.

But the Supreme Court of Cape Verde subsequently approved Mr. Saab’s extradition to the United States in defiance of the judgment of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, ruling that the country was not bound by the rulings. of the regional court.

This, said the Supreme Court of Cape Verde, because Cape Verde was not a signatory to the Protocol establishing the regional court.

Cape Verde, through its general prosecutor’s office, authorized the extradition of Mr. Saab to the United States, a fatal blow to the recent victory of the latter’s legal team.

Fugitive

A U.S. District Court in Florida has since declared Mr. Saab a fugitive.

The South Florida District Court first named Mr. Saab as a fugitive on August 26, 2019 following his failure to face money laundering charges brought against him by US authorities on July 25, 2019.

Mr Saab then brought a motion urging the court to overturn the fugitive designation.

But judge Robert Scola Jr. in a ruling on March 18 dismissed Mr Saab’s petition, saying the petitioner would not be allowed to challenge his fugitive status and the validity of the charges against him without his physical presence in court. .

READ ALSO: Alex Saab: Falana asks ECOWAS Commission to sanction Cape Verde

“Saab Moran is prohibited from attacking his fugitive status and his indictment until he is physically present in this jurisdiction,” Mr Scola wrote in the judgment, a PREMIUM TIMES copy of which obtained on Thursday.

“Saab Moran is a fugitive,” Mr Scola said in a reaffirmation of the court’s previous statement.

“A party is a fugitive if he intentionally avoids arrest by fleeing, hiding inside or staying out of jurisdiction,” added the judge.

$ 350 million money laundering case against Saab

The U.S. government on July 25, 2019, filed one count of conspiracy to launder money and seven counts of money laundering against Mr. Saab and Alvaro Pulido Vargas, also known as “ the German Enrique Rubio Salas ”.

The authorities alleged in the accusations seen by PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Saab and his co-accused, Mr. Vargas, had entered into a contract with the government of Venezuela for the construction of social housing.

Mr Saab and other co-conspirators have reportedly paid bribes to Venezuelan government officials to approve bogus invoices for unperformed services and to approve the purchase of goods never provided.

It was alleged that as a result of these bribes, Mr Saab and his co-defendant received payment on the fraudulent invoices.

Investigators alleged that Mr. Saab and his co-conspirators laundered the proceeds of their scheme through wire transfers totaling $ 350,041,500.

Mr. Saab and Mr. Vargas were charged with distributing the funds using bank accounts in the Southern District of Florida.

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