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US judge sets court date for alleged Chavismo front man accused of money laundering

A judge of USA set Monday, November 1, as the date for the appearance of Alex Saab, a businessman accused of laundering money on behalf of the illegitimate government of Nicolás Maduro, in a case that pits the United States against the Chavista regime.

US prosecutors indicted Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme linked to the exchange control system imposed by the State of Venezuela. The United States also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a plan that allowed him and Maduro to benefit from a state food distribution program.

Saab, a Colombian national, was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped for refueling in Cape Verde. The country’s courts approved his extradition after a lengthy legal battle.

Saab appeared Monday for an initial hearing in orange jumpsuit and a blue mask, in a video conference before Federal Judge John J. O’Sullivan in Miami.

Following Saab’s extradition from Cape Verde to the United States on Saturday, the Venezuelan government announced that it was suspending its participation in the dialogues with opposition sectors, a round table that has been held in Mexico since August and was scheduled to resume at the weekend. .

Following Saab’s extradition, authorities re-arrested six former executives of refiner Citgo, a US subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, who had been under house arrest since April this year.

The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were transferred from their homes to one of the intelligence police headquarters, two sources said on Saturday.

The group is made up of five naturalized US citizens and one permanent resident. The United States government has repeatedly demanded his release.

The Venezuelan government has accused the United States of kidnapping Saab, whom it describes as a diplomatic envoy heading to Iran to negotiate fuel and food supplies that have been disrupted by US sanctions.

Washington created a broad sanctions program in 2019 aimed at forcing Maduro from power. The sanctions have worsened Venezuela’s economic crisis, fueled by years of hyperinflation and constant deterioration of the country’s oil industry.


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