The Colombian-Venezuelan businessman Álex Saab, Presumed front man of the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, declared this Monday in a US federal court. not guilty of a money laundering charge.
In a brief hearing held today in a federal court in Miami on the occasion of the formal reading of charges, his defense attorney, Neil Schuster, took up the argument that Saab, 49, is a diplomat from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and therefore with immunity.
Although the judge in charge of the case is Robert N. Scola Jr., the businessman appeared today before Judge Alicia Otazo Reyes, in beige overalls and hair tied back, handcuffed with hands and feet along with five other inmates, while outside the courthouse in downtown Miami a dozen Maduro supporters demanded the freedom of the accused.
The US Attorney’s Office accuses Saab of paying bribes to divert up to $ 350 million of state contracts to build low-cost housing for the Venezuelan Government.
Two weeks ago, Judge Scola, who will continue to lead this case, dismissed seven money laundering charges pending against Saab, who was extradited to the US on October 16 after more than a year of arrest in Cape Verde.
The reduction of charges was part of the extradition agreement with the Government of Cape Verde so that, in case he is found guilty, the sentence does not exceed the one he would have had in that African country.
Saab, who in today’s hearing did not speak, faces a sentence of about 20 years if found guilty of the only charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a penalty that can be reduced if you reach an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office, which usually includes a whistleblower.
It was not reported in court about chen will be the next hearing in this case, which is expected to be before Judge Scola.
Saab is also linked to another case by the Local Supply and Production Committees of Venezuela (CLAP), a system created by President Nicolás Maduro in 2016 and that the US Treasury Department indicates to be a scheme for the entrepreneur made “substantial profits.”