An alleged financier to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been extradited from Cape Verde to the US and is scheduled to appear in court Monday, the US Department of Justice said Sunday.
Colombian businessman Alex Saab is expected to make his initial court appearance at 1 p.m. ET before US Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, DOJ spokesperson Nicole Navas Oxman said in a statement Sunday.
The US alleges Saab was behind a corruption network involving a government-subsidized food program called CLAP that allowed Maduro and his allies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the Venezuelan people while also using food as a form of social control.
“Rather than ensure that this vulnerable population receives the food it desperately needs, the regime uses the CLAP program as a political tool to reward support and punish political criticism,” the US Treasury Department said in 2019.
“By offering food through this program, the former regime is able to maintain its influence because many Venezuelan citizens do not have enough money to buy food and therefore depend on the rations CLAP provides to survive.”
The Treasury Department also accused Saab of personally profiting from overvalued contracts.
Saab had been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department and had been sought by the DOJ’s Southern District of Florida over money laundering charges.
Due to his indictment in the US, an Interpol red notice was issued. In June 2020, Saab was detained while traveling from Venezuela to Iran when his jet stopped to refuel in Cape Verde, an African island nation.
Earlier this year, Saab told CNN he feared he would be treated inhumanely if he were extradited to the US.
He was extradited on Saturday, and the DOJ said Saab’s extradition was “conducted in full compliance with all relevant Cabo Verdean laws and court rulings.”
“The U.S. Department of Justice expresses our gratitude to the Government of Cabo Verde for its assistance and perseverance with this complex case and admiration for the professionalism of Cabo Verde’s judicial system,” the DOJ statement said.
But Saab’s lawyer alleged in a video statement Saturday that Saab had been “kidnapped” by the United States and that his extradition “violated” the rules of Cape Verde’s internal law and the international law.