PRAIA, CAPE VERDE – A court in the West African nation of Cape Verde has approved extradition of Colombian businessman Álex Saab to the United States, where he faces charges involving money laundering on behalf of Venezuela’s socialist government.
The court made its decision Friday but did not inform the defense team until Monday evening, João do Rosário, an attorney on Saab’s legal team, told VOA’s Portuguese service.
Rosário said the defense team would appeal Saab’s extradition to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court. He said it has 10 days from the date of notification to take such action.
“We will necessarily have to appeal this decision,” Rosário said, adding that it was “not properly grounded.”
He said the legal team also is considering an appeal to the country’s Constitutional Court.
Saab, a 48-year-old Colombian lawyer and businessman, was arrested on the island of Sal on June 12, when his private plane stopped for refueling en route from Venezuela to Iran. The United States requested Saab’s extradition within days of his arrest.
Venezuela’s government protested Saab’s arrest, contending he was on a “humanitarian mission” to get food and medical supplies, according to The Associated Press.
Saab is considered a possible front man for the family of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The United States and other countries blame Maduro’s socialist policies for a political and economic crisis threatening regional stability.
Saab and another Colombian businessman were indicted in July 2019 in U.S. federal court in Miami for their alleged participation in an illegal bribery scheme from late 2011 through at least September 2015, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release last year. The men allegedly laundered money from bank accounts in Venezuela “to and through bank accounts located in the United States,” a U.S. Justice Department news release said when the indictment was issued.
In September, Saab was among three individuals targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department for allegedly enabling Maduro “and his illegitimate regime to corruptly profit from imports of food aid and distribution in Venezuela,” a U.S. Treasury Department news release said at the time.
This account originated in VOA’s Portuguese service, with Eugenio Teixeira reporting from Cape Verde and Alvaro Andrade from Washington.