Alex Saab, a powerful businessman with close connections to Maduro and other high-ranking government officials, was arrested yesterday afternoon in Cabo Verde. While details on his arrest are scarce, the Cabo Verde authorities have confirmed that he is in custody, and there is speculation that will be extradited to the United States.
Saab was sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department in July 2019 over his alleged roll in a corruption scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the Treasury Department, Saab is a “profiteer” who oversaw a corruption network which diverted funds from a subsidized food program meant to feed hungry Venezuelans into his pockets and those of his allies.
The sanction press release reads, in part:
Through a sophisticated network of shell companies, business partners, and family members, Saab laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in corruption proceeds around the world. Also targeted today are Maduro’s three stepsons, Walter, Yosser, and Yoswal, to whom Saab funneled money in exchange for access to contracts with the Government of Venezuela, including its food subsidy program.
Shortly before noon yesterday, an airplane registered in San Marino took off from the Maiquetia International airport in Venezuela. Approximately six hours later, it landed in Cabo Verde:
Data from flightradar24 showing the aircraft’s full path, ending in Cabo Verde:
A few hours later, rumours began to swirl on Twitter that Saab had been detained. Colombia’s El Tiempo confirmed the news later in the evening, followed up by the authorities of Cabo Verde earlier today.
Saab’s arrest represents a blow to a massive corruption network operating at the highest levels of the Venezuelan government. His business dealings have long been the subject of investigation by journalists at Armando.info, a Venezuelan investigative news organization.
Maduro Gov’t Lashes Out At Saab’s Arrest
Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza published an official statement on his Twitter account today acknowledging Saab’s arrest, and calling it a “arbitrary detention”.
Because the Maduro government has been reluctant to speak about Saab and his activities in the past, the document contains some previously unknown facts about him. For example, in the document, the Foreign Affairs ministry says that Saab–who was born in Colombia–is a Venezuelan citizen.
The document claims that Saab is “an agent of the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, and that he was on official business when he was arrested in Cabo Verde, where he had stopped en route to an undisclosed destination. The document also reveals that Saab was arrested by INTERPOL agents.
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