WorldWhy is Alex Saab on trial in the US...

Why is Alex Saab on trial in the US and what charges is he facing?

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The Colombian-Venezuelan businessman Alex Saab, designated as front man of the dictator Nicolas Maduro, appeared for the first time before a US court, after he was extradited from Cape Verde on Saturday, where he had been detained in June 2020.

During the hearing held this Monday in the court of the Southern District of Florida, Saab appeared through a video call and was dressed in the characteristic orange jumpsuit worn by detainees in that country.

SIGHT: Why does the extradition of Alex Saab to the US make Nicolás Maduro fear?

Federal Judge John J. O’Sullivan denied that Saab could be released on bail and arranged a next hearing for November 1, in addition to notifying the businessman that the US justice had appointed attorney Henry Bell to lead his defense.

O’Sullivan will not be the judge in charge of the case, as this function will fall on Magistrate Charles N. Scola.

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A statement released today by the United States Department of Justice detailed that Saab, 49, weighs 8 charges for conspiracy to launder money and another 7 for money laundering. In the same case, another Colombian citizen named Alvaro Pulido Vargas, who operated under the alias of German Enrique Rubio Salas, 55, has been accused.

Against the 49-year-old Saab, there are 8 counts of conspiracy to launder money and another 7 for money laundering.

WHY IS IT JUDGED IN THE USA?

The charges against Saab and Pulido have weighed since July 2019, when the US justice accused them of having laundered 350 million dollars obtained in Venezuela.

After that, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury imposed various sanctions against the entrepreneurs, including the freezing of their accounts in the United States.

According to the indictment, Saab would have amassed a fortune taking advantage of the exchange control system in Venezuela and developing a network of companies scattered throughout Turkey, Panama, Colombia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

Among its practices, Saab would have taken advantage of the so-called Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), a social program of Chavismo with which they claim to deliver baskets of basic products to the poorest citizens, but in which they have committed fraudulent awards of contracts, overpriced purchases and the acquisition of various products of poor quality, according to investigations by the Venezuelan press that have denounced this situation since 2017.

To launder the money obtained from these operations and send it to the internationally mounted shell network, Saab would have used the US financial system. That is why after being captured in Cape Verde, the justice of the North American country requested his extradition.

Saab and Pulido won a contract with the Venezuelan government in November 2011 to build low-income housing. Then, the defendants and their co-conspirators took advantage of the exchange rate controlled by the Government of Venezuela, under which US dollars could be obtained at a favorable rate, by presenting false and fraudulent import documents for goods and materials that were never imported into Venezuela and bribing Venezuelan government officials to approve those documents. The indictment alleges that the illicit activity was a bribery scheme that violated the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) and involved bribery crimes against Venezuela. It also alleges that the meetings to promote the payment of the bribe occurred in Miami and that Saab and Pulido transferred money related to the plan to bank accounts in the Southern District of Florida.”Says the document from the Department of Justice.

The Maduro regime has condemned Saab's extradition.  In addition, in retaliation, he froze the conversations he had with the opposition in Mexico and ordered the house arrest of six former directors, with Venezuelan and American nationality, of the Citgo company.  (Photo: EFE)

The Maduro regime has condemned Saab’s extradition. In addition, in retaliation, he froze the conversations he had with the opposition in Mexico and ordered the house arrest of six former directors, with Venezuelan and American nationality, of the Citgo company. (Photo: EFE)

WHAT PENALTY COULD I RECEIVE?

The accusations against Saab revolve around one main crime: money laundering.

This crime consists of hiding the source from which the funds come, as it could be considered illegal. After that, the money is redirected to legitimate sources that help to hide the operation. Current legislation in the state of Florida condemns this type of crime, detailing the penalties in statute 896.101.

The actual fine depends on the value of the financial transactions involved and the seriousness of the charges against the defendant. For financial transactions that are more than US $ 300 but less than US $ 20,000, the offense is considered a felony of the third degree. This carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. It is a second degree felony if the value is between $ 20,000 and $ 100,000. This crime carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. A first degree felony is when the financial transactions involved are valued at more than $ 100,000. This carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.”, Details the US legal portal HG.org.

For these types of cases, in which the accused is presumed to belong to an even larger network, the authorities often offer an option with which to reduce the sentences. This option is known as the effective contributor option.

However, a letter that would have been written by Saab and read by his wife Camila Fabri this Sunday seems to overturn this option, since in it the businessman assures that he does not have “nothing to collaborate”With the United States.

I have nothing to collaborate with the United States, I have not committed any crime in the United States or in any country, and I do not intend to lie to favor the United States against those undergoing an inhuman blockade (Venezuela) ”, notes the letter written before his extradition, according to Fabri.

Camila Fabri, Saab's wife, reads a letter allegedly written by the Colombian-Venezuelan businessman before being extradited from Cape Verde where he assures that he has no

Camila Fabri, Saab’s wife, reads a letter allegedly written by the Colombian-Venezuelan businessman before being extradited from Cape Verde, where he assures that he has “nothing to collaborate” with the United States. (Photo: Miguel Gutiérrez / EFE)

  • Russian Ambassador to Venezuela describes the extradition of Alex Saab to the United States as “kidnapping”.
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  • Maduro accuses the US of giving a “fatal stab” to the dialogue with the opposition with the extradition of Alex Saab
  • Alex Saab says in a letter that he has “nothing to collaborate with the US”
  • Guaidó urges to seek an agreement for Venezuela after the interruption of the dialogue

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