Western media are celebrating another supposed ‘victory’ against the Venezuelan government as a Colombian businessman indicted by U.S. authorities as the alleged chief money launder for ‘Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela’ has been detained in the African island archipelago of Cape Verde.
Alex Saab was detained on June 12 as his San Marino-registered jet made a refuelling stop in Cape Verde on its way from Caracas to Iran.
US ‘Justice Department’ spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman said on June 13 that Saab was arrested in Cape Verde on an Interpol red notice.
The United States has no extradition treaty with Cape Verde and it was not immediately clear what would happen next.
The US government accuses Saab of being the front man for a vast network of money laundering and corruption in Venezuela through shell companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Hong Kong, Panama, Colombia, and Mexico.
The US Justice Department in July 2019 indicted Saab and another businessman for allegedly bribing Venezuelan officials and diverting some $350 million to overseas accounts.
The US Treasury Department has also put sanctions on Saab for allegedly running a vast corruption network for a food-aid program that lined the pockets of ‘the Maduro regime’, which has overseen the economic collapse of the oil-rich country.
“Saab engaged with Maduro insiders to run a wide-scale corruption network they callously used to exploit Venezuela’s starving population,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in July 2019 while announcing the sanctions.
“They use food as a form of social control, to reward political supporters and punish opponents, all the while pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars through a number of fraudulent schemes.”
The US government and Venezuelan opposition also accuse that the fuel shipments from Iran in May were purchased with gold and by shell companies controlled by Saab to evade the unilateral US sanctions against both countries.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denounced the “arbitrary and illegal detention” of Saab, who he said was acting on behalf of the Venezuelan government to procure food, medicine, and other supplies to help the country against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Venezuelan opposition, a segment of which is headed by Juan Guaido – who is recognized by dozens of countries including the United States as Venezuela’s interim president (and not recognized by well over 100) – welcomed Saab’s arrest.
“Colombian boss Alex Saab is the main figurehead of the dictatorship; he manages opaque [Venezuelan state oil company] PDVSA businesses, gold, food, alliance with Iran, relations with cartels, and protects ill-gotten money from Maduro and [Maduro’s wife] Cilia Flores,” Julio Borges, an opposition figure close to Guaido, said on Twitter.
“His capture is a hard blow to the structure of the regime, it shows that Venezuelans are not alone and that there is no future with Maduro, not even for those who support him,” he said. LINK
The US accusations should be treated with extreme caution, as they could be another effort to exact retribution on anyone involved in dealings with the Venezuelan or Iranian governments after their failure to prevent the fuel shipments in May, and as with other US actions they are consistent with the US Establishment’s determination to overthrow the Venezuelan government at any cost. (LINK)
If the US officials were genuine in their concern to combat corruption and drug trafficking, one of the best places to start would be investigating and prosecuting former Chiquita Brands executives and Colombian and US officials for possible complicity in massive drug trafficking operations between the two countries (LINK), or conducting criminal prosecutions against senior executives of major US banks involved in laundering billions of dollars on behalf of Colombian and Mexican cartels over many years. (LINK) (LINK)
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