Venezuela’s lawyer in Cape Verde, Arnaldo Silva, believes that the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) of this African country will “revoke” the decision of a lower court to authorize the extradition to the United States of the Colombian businessman Álex Saab, accused of being a front man for the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro.
In statements made to Efe, Silva was “convinced” that the STJ “has no choice but to revoke the sentence in favor of the extradition of Álex Saab”, issued on July 31 by the Barlavento Court of Appeal (TA) , based on the island of Saint Vincent, in the north of this West African island country.
Saab, 48, was arrested on June 12 when his plane stopped to refuel at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the northern island of Sal (the most important in Cape Verde), in response to a request from the United States. through Interpol for alleged money laundering offenses.
The Court of Appeal came to endorse with its decision of July the position already expressed previously by the Cape Verdean Government in favor of extradition, although Saab’s lawyers filed an appeal before the STJ last Friday.
Background that may favor Saab
Silva, who has powers granted by the Attorney General of the Republic of Venezuela to represent the interests of Caracas in Cape Verde in matters concerning the case, considered “various reasons” to wait for a ruling favorable to Saab.
“For now, the grounds for the TA’s ruling are practically non-existent, consisting of a simple reproduction of what the Americans put into the process,” the lawyer explained to Efe in Praia, Cape Verdean capital on the southern island of Santiago and headquarters of the STJ.
In his opinion, the Barlavento court “ignored all the efforts made by the defense and did not pronounce a word on the legal reasoning presented by it.”
Likewise, he continued, there are judgments on cases similar to Saab’s, such as that of an Iranian citizen and another Pakistani – “with the aggravation of much more serious charges” – claimed by the US and whose extradition was approved by the Leeward Court of Appeals ( Praia), but later rejected by the STJ in 2017.
“The STJ, with the same composition and the same judges as now, relied on the question of the penalties attributable to the accused in the country requesting the extradition, considering that there was no guarantee that these penalties were appropriate and adjusted to the practiced in Cape Verde for the same crimes, with the risk that both people would be sentenced to life imprisonment, “he recalled.
According to Silva, the 2017 sentence is applicable to the Saab case, so the STJ “is obliged to take that precedent into account and revoke the sentence of July 31 of the Barlavento TA, under pain of contradicting and discrediting itself.”
In its judgment of July 31, the TA assures that Saab will not incur “the death penalty or any other that may result in irreversible damage to the integrity of the person, that is, of a perpetual nature or of an indefinite duration” and that ” he will not be extradited to a third country. “
The ruling adds that the decision is also made on the principle of reciprocity, but recognizes that, due to the limitations imposed by its extradition and immigration laws, “the United States is not in a position to guarantee that same reciprocity.”
“I am convinced that the STJ will revoke the decision of the TA because that will be the most appropriate and appropriate result,” said Silva, calling the Barlavento court decision “very unfair”.
After the businessman’s arrest, Venezuela pointed out that Saab is a Venezuelan citizen and an “agent” of the Government, who was “in transit” in Cape Verde.
The defense maintains that “he had the right to personal inviolability as a special envoy from Venezuela.”
Last week, former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who is a member of Saab’s legal team, accused the US of “orchestrating” the extradition of the Colombian businessman for political and electoral reasons.
Alleged laundering of hundreds and millions of dollars
Saab’s name appeared in the press when former Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega accused him in 2017 of being one of Maduro’s front men.
Saab, born in Barranquilla (Colombia) and of Lebanese origin, is related to several companies, including Group Grand Limited (GGL), accused of supplying the Maduro regime with food and supplies for the government Local Committees of Supply and Production ( CLAP).
A US government official indicated in July 2019 that with the CLAPs, which are delivered to the poorest, the Colombian businessman and three of Maduro’s stepsons apparently profited from “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Washington also brought charges against Saab and its right-hand man, Álvaro Enrique Pulido, whom it accuses of laundering up to 350 million dollars allegedly defrauded through the exchange control system in Venezuela.
According to the United States, between November 2011 and September 2015, Saab and Pulido conspired with others to launder their illicit earnings and transfer them from Venezuela to US bank accounts, which is why Washington has jurisdiction in the case.