Lawyers for a Colombian businessman say they’re exploring their options after a court in the West African country of Cape Verde rejected their appeal to halt his extradition to the United States.
The Cape Verde high court’s written judgment, dated August 30 but published Tuesday on the court’s website, said Alex Saab must stand trial in the United States.
Saab is wanted on charges of laundering money through U.S. banks in connection with a Venezuelan bribery scheme. He has been held in Cape Verde since June 12, 2020, when he was arrested while his private plane stopped for fuel en route to Iran.
Venezuela’s socialist government had protested his arrest, saying Saab was acting as a special envoy to seek food, medical supplies and fuel for the South American country.
The U.S. government has imposed strict sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and others in his administration.
Geraldo Almeida, one of Saab’s attorneys, told VOA’s Portuguese Service that the case had turned into a “political battle taking into account” the U.S. government’s power.
Almeida said he and others on Saab’s defense team were not “throwing in the towel.”
But João Resende-Santos, a law professor at the Higher Institute of Legal and Social Sciences in Cape Verde, told VOA that no further appeals are available.
“The next step is the foreign affairs ministry to communicate to the U.S. Embassy in Cape Verde about the court’s decision. This administrative process is brief and the U.S. Embassy has 45 days to bring Alex Saab to the U.S.,” he said.
In early January, Cape Verde’s Court of Appeal in Barlavento ruled that Saab should be extradited to the United States. The defense appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, which in March upheld the lower court’s verdict.
Saab and another Colombian businessman, Alvaro Pulido Vargas, were indicted in July 2019 in U.S. federal court in Miami for allegedly joining in a bribery scheme from late 2011 through at least September 2015, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release.
The men allegedly laundered approximately $350 million from bank accounts in Venezuela “to and through bank accounts located in the United States,” the Justice Department said.
This report originated in VOA’s Portuguese Service.