A Columbian financier who has close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was arrested in Cape Verde.
Alex Saab Morán, sought after for allegedly laundering more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the United States, was arrested while his private jet refueled during a trip to Iran. U.S. officials suspect he was attempting to exchange Venezuelan gold for Iranian gasoline, a person familiar with the case told The Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Treasury penned corruption allegations on Saab and more than two dozen companies connected to him and his associates. The agency accused Saab of bribing three of Maduro’s stepsons to get contracts. The Venezuelan president denies the claims, which he calls a smear campaign from his political opponents.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida indicted Saab in July and charged him with transferring more than $350 million in multiple government corruption scams that reach back to 2011.
“The whole financial operation of the regime could crumble with this guy at the hands of the U.S.,” the source said.
The source called Saab one of the federal government’s top targets as it continues to put enough pressure on Maduro to push him out of his presidency. Cape Verde has no extradition treaty with the United States but the federal government could apprehend Saab if he is expelled from the island.
Jorge Arreaza, Maduro’s foreign minister, rejected the claim and called Saab an agent of the Venezuelan government who deserves diplomatic immunity.
“This action, in violation of international law and norms, corresponds to the acts of aggression and harassment against the Venezuelan people taken on by the USA,” Arreaza said.
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