Saab ally Maduro to plead not guilty to money laundering – lawyer
October 28 (Reuters) – Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman turned special envoy to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, will plead not guilty to money laundering charges when he appears on Monday, his lawyer Henry Bell told Reuters.
In a case pitting the United States against Maduro’s socialist administration, Saab was arrested in Cape Verde during a refueling stop en route to Iran and extradited to the United States earlier this month.
He and an ally have been accused of siphoning around $ 350 million from Venezuela via the United States as part of a corruption program linked to the Venezuelan state-controlled exchange rate.
When sanctioned him in 2019, Washington described Saab as the orchestrator of a “vast network of corruption” that has enriched Maduro and his allies through a complex web of shell companies, associates and relatives.
Saab’s lawyers called the US accusations “politically motivated” and his family said Saab had been “kidnapped”.
The Venezuelan opposition is hoping Saab will cooperate with investigators and shed light on what they say is rampant corruption in the oil-rich nation.
The United States calls Maduro an illegitimate dictator and has sanctioned the national oil company OPEC in an attempt to push him to resign, while several senior Venezuelan officials – including Maduro himself – face charges of trafficking in drug in the United States.
Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Daniel Wallis
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