Maduro’s U.S.-Charged Dealmaker Saab Detained in Cabo Verde

(Bloomberg) -- Alex Nain Saab Moran, a Colombian businessman charged by U.S. authorities as a dealmaker for Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, was detained in Cabo Verde, Africa on Friday, according to his lawyer.

Indicted last July on federal money-laundering charges, Saab was accused of bribing Venezuelan officials and funneling more than $350 million to overseas accounts as part of a food program intended to serve those going hungry in Venezuela. Saab’s Miami-based lawyer, Maria Dominguez, declined to comment on the charges for which he was detained or to add further details.

Maduro’s U.S.-Charged Dealmaker Saab Detained in Cabo Verde

More recently, Saab is suspected of helping Maduro orchestrate a swap with Iran as part of a broader assistance plan that has brought over oil, workers and supplies in exchange for about 9 tons of gold, worth $500 million. Last month, Saab’s lawyer denied any participation in the events, saying his client was a “food business entrepreneur.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said Saab was on a layover in Cabo Verde as part of a business trip to acquire food for the government’s subsidy program as well as medicine to treat the coronavirus pandemic. His arrest is part of the United States’ “hounding and aggression against the Venezuelan people,” the statement said.

“I am an open book, and my accounts are clear and my conscience is clean,” Saab said in a 2017 interview with El Tiempo newspaper, where he denied being involved in corrupt contracts with Venezuela.

Saab is alleged to have helped negotiate the Iran deal with Maduro’s new Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami. The two had previously worked together to strengthen Venezuela’s relationship with Turkey, which included shipments of at least $900 million in gold to the nation in 2018. By then, U.S. officials already feared some of the metal had made its way to Tehran in violation of sanctions.

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