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Why Is Nicolás Maduro Afraid That Alex Saab Will Testify In the USA?

Colombian-Venezuelan businessman Alex Saab is already in the United States. and faces money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Nicolás Maduro and Alex Saab

Saab will have to answer for the crimes of money laundering and consiption. The man, who also has Venezuelan nationality, already had his first hearing. Photo: United States Department of the Treasury, Congress of Peru

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué Nicolás Maduro teme que Alex Saab testifique en USA?

Colombian-born businessman Alex Saab, of Palestinian descent and linked to the Nicolás Maduro regime; was transferred this week to a prison in Florida. There, Saab will have to answer for the crimes of money laundering and conspiracy. The man, who also has Venezuelan nationality, already had his first hearing.

However, this case is not just another one in the gigantic American judicial apparatus. According to various media, this is one of Chavismo's henchmen and his capture, extradition, and prosecution within the United States represents a great threat to the Venezuelan government.

Maduro has tried everything to avoid the extradition and prosecution of Saab to the northern country. He moved the entire diplomatic apparatus. He classified the businessman as a political prisoner. In addition, recently, while Saab awaited his possible extradition in a Cape Verde prison, Maduro appointed him as a delegate for the negotiations between the ruling party and the Venezuelan opposition in Mexico. But all this work was in vain and today Saab wears orange, like all the other prisoners in American penitentiaries.

Why does Maduro fear the Saab trial?

What worries Maduro is not that Saab will be tried and will have to do time in prison.  His fear is that Saab collaborates with the American justice system and may involve Venezuela and the Chavismo businesses for benefits.

Alex Saab has had a money laundering accusation since 2019. According to an investigation by Francisco Santos, journalist and vice president of Colombia, the accused was the bridge between many of the negotiations that Venezuela carried out with its international partners, especially Russia and Iran. For this reason, it is not so striking that both Moscow and Tehran have aligned themselves with Venezuela in delegitimizing the process against Saab and the institutions of Cape Verde.

Santos' investigation also indicates that several people fear that they will be involved in the businesses that Saab brokered.

Political figures from different countries could begin to be in the sanctions of the United States.

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The newspaper El Espectador considers Saab "the custodian of the wealth and state secrets" of Venezuela. He is visible in Colombia since in 2011 he helped to sign a contract for 685 million dollars for the sale of prefabricated houses for the Housing Mission, explains the Colombian newspaper.

The man was a key piece in the Venezuelan business scaffolding. Not only was he linked to the construction of houses of social interest, but he was also one of those in charge of supplying the CLAEP plans with food. Likewise, he is accused of having several exchange benefits due to his proximity to Chavismo.

According to former Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega in an interview for Semana, Saab helped launder money for Maduro himself, his family, and several close associates. The framework can be gigantic and the people involved too. Despite the fact that an eventual capture of the Venezuelan president is obviously unlikely, it could further corner the already battered accounts of the Government and of the high leaders who have seen how their money abroad continues to be tracked.

However, the businessman has already stated that he does not intend to collaborate with the American justice system. Deputy Jorge Rodríguez made it clear when he published a letter that Saab would have written in which he also affirms that he has been tortured on the island of Cape Verde. Before his extradition, he assured "You really believe that I am going there to tell, according to you, 'secrets' to overthrow my government. If you think so, let me tell you that this will not happen."

Time will tell how much the accused will collaborate with the US prosecution. But apparently, Chavismo doesn't want Saab to testify.