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The United States justice has finally got its hands on the alleged frontman of Nicolás Maduro, the dictator of Venezuela. It is Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman of Lebanese descent, who became a key figure of the regime in its relations with Iran and Turkey and who has been charged with 8 counts of money laundering.
Alex Saab is not only considered Nicolás Maduro’s alleged frontman, but also the key man linked to illicit businesses, terrorism, drug trafficking, the illicit sale of gold, and the import of overpriced subsidized food in Venezuela.
In July 2019, the United States penalized Saab for managing a corruption network that benefited from a no-bid contract to import food to Venezuela on behalf of Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
Prosecutors believe he laundered more than $350 million to pay for the Venezuelan regime’s corruption through the American financial system. In short, the United States has in its hands one of the most valuable men for the regime of Nicolás Maduro, for whom today it offers a millionaire reward.
During his arrest, the Maduro regime sent a letter to Alex Saab, who was indirectly asked to keep quiet because he had “classified” information.
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Alex Saab’s capture and extradition
In June 2020, just three days after his properties in Colombia, valued at US$10 million, were confiscated, Saab was arrested in Cape Verde when the private plane in which he was traveling stopped to refuel. Although he had a diplomatic passport issued by Maduro, he used his personal document, which prompted his arrest following an Interpol red alert.
The businessman has insisted that his human rights have been violated and that his arrest was “illegal”, a claim also made by the Venezuelan regime that appointed him as a diplomat after the arrest in Cape Verde in order for him to be granted immunity.
Saab is a fugitive from justice in Colombia and the United States. The ramifications of his power and influence are strategic for the survival of the tyranny; in fact, he became one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, to the point that Maduro even prohibited the press to spread information about him.
In Colombia, he is being investigated for money laundering, criminal conspiracy, illicit enrichment, fictitious exports and/or imports and fraud.
After dozens of appeals and legal actions by his lawyers, Saab was not able to avoid his extradition to the United States, where he will have to deal with accusations and investigations for 8 crimes.
“He is here on his initial appearance on an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of laundering monetary instruments,” stated Judge John J. O’Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the Southeastern District of Florida.
The United States claims that Saab created a corruption scheme that took advantage of Venezuelans’ hunger and corrupted the state food program to launder money. In Colombia, the Attorney General’s Office accuses him of making fictitious exports and imports through several companies, among them the textile company Shatex, through which he laundered millions of dollars in assets.
Maduro’s alleged front man is also the key piece in a mysterious trade scheme created by Chavismo and the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to enrich himself at the expense of stolen gold and subsidized food.
Bloomberg explains that Alex Saab and other accomplices “have revamped their criminal enterprises to adapt to challenges and opportunities.”
The “gold-for-food” system is a scheme carried out by several multinational companies aimed at concealing the flow of money and goods, say investigators.
Gold in exchange for refineries
Alex Saab is allegedly behind the business between Venezuela and Iran that involves the payment of gold in exchange for products to produce gasoline. A report by Bloomberg news agency revealed that Saab traveled to Tehran with top executives of state oil company PDVSA to reach an agreement in which Iran sends gasoline additives, parts and technicians to the South American nation in exchange for gold.
Alleged links to international terrorism
In 2018, advances in international investigations were known that revealed that Saab allegedly has a strong link with the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Authorities from the United States, Israel and Colombia are following the trail of several financial movements from Venezuela that would have ended up in the financing of the terrorist group.
According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, there are several financial movements linked to Alex Saab that would have left the Central Bank of Venezuela and, after passing through tax havens, have ended up in Asia.
Likewise, a report by El Nuevo Herald revealed that Saab, besides being a frontman for the tyranny, would also be the financier of the FARC guerrilla and leftist parties in Colombia.
Saab has information on how Maduro and his allies built the entire corrupt network to keep the millions of dollars derived from the CLAP boxes, which even the terrorist group ELN helped to move through Colombia. He also knows how the Cartel of the Suns, made up of Venezuelan military capos, established secret routes to launder illicit profits from drug trafficking.
Sabrina Martín Rondon is a Venezuelan journalist. Her source is politics and economics. She is a specialist in corporate communications and is committed to the task of dismantling the supposed benefits of socialism // Sabrina Martín Rondon es periodista venezolana. Su fuente es la política y economía. Es especialista en comunicaciones corporativas y se ha comprometido con la tarea de desmontar las supuestas bondades del socialismo