Cape Verde does not recognize the Nicolás Maduro regime as legitimate, meaning Caracas can’t take part in the extradition process of alleged money launderer Alex Saab, a local lawyer told Spanish wire service EFE.
On Friday, Colombian President Ivan Duque asked that Saab be extradited to the United States, saying he didn’t want him in Colombia. Saab got arrested in Cape Verde in mid-June on two US-issued Interpol warrants.
Saab, who is accused of being Maduro frontman and is wanted by the United States, cannot be defended or represented by the Maduro regime, the Cape Verde lawyer, Arnaldo Silva, told EFE on Friday, since Praia does not recognize them.
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Silva said the regime tried to hire him for Saab’s defense but he excused himself, arguing the mentioned legitimacy issued.
“They contacted me to be their lawyer, but I informed them that it is not possible because the Venezuelan government has no legitimacy for any intervention in the process,” Silva explained to EFE. The law is clear on this matter, Silva said.
Silva said he got contacted by the Abreu law firm, one of the Portugal leading firms, acting on behalf of the Caracas government.
The arrest of Saab
Saab got arrested on June 12 when his plane stopped to re-fuel at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the northern island of Sal, in response to a request via Interpol for alleged money laundering offenses.
The lawyer stressed that the Saab case not be tried in Cape Verde. There, only decides in court about the extradition request submitted by the United States and already supported by the Cape Verdean government, and it will take a long time to have a result.
Silva recalled that the case is “judicially complex and highly mediatized, in addition to being subject to several possible appeals”, as the businessman defense has already admitted.
According to the lawyer, the Venezuelan government exerting diplomatic pressure to have Saab release. The Venezuelan ambassador to Cape Verde, Alejandro Correa Ortega, who has an official residence in Senegal, is now in Cape Verde, for the second time since the arrest of Saab.
The Government of Cape Verde authorized the extradition to the United States of Alex Saab, an opinion sent last week to the Court of Appeal of Barlavento, based on the island of St. Vincent (north of the archipelago), where will take on the final deliberation.
The defense has until Thursday to express its opposition to the government decision in the court.
After the arrest of the alleged frontman, the Maduro regime said Saab is a Venezuelan citizen, a government agent who was in transit in Cape Verde to return to the country.
The defense argues that the businessman “entitled to personal inviolability as a special envoy of Venezuela in transit through Cape Verde”.
Saab hired a large consortium of lawyers that includes recognized international specialists such as former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon or the Dutchman Rutsel Martha (former director of legal affairs at Interpol).
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But the case is proceeding at breakneck speed: besides recommending that his extradition, Cape Verde court has already rejected two habeas corpus requests by Saab defense.
The Colombian bussinesman
Despite keeping a low profile in Colombia, Alex Saab’s name appeared in the media when former Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega accused him in 2017 of being one of the launderers of Maduro.
Washington also charged against Saab and its right-hand man, Álvaro Enrique Pulido, who it accuses of laundering up to $350 million allegedly defrauded through Venezuelan exchange control system.
According to the United States, between November 2011 and September 2015, Saab and Pulido, with other partners, launder their illicit profits and transfer them from Venezuela to bank accounts in the North American country.