Venezuelan diplomat accused of corruption was US ‘law enforcement source’

Alex SaabA WEALTHY BUSINESSMAN AND close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who is being tried in the United States on money-laundering charges, was a “law enforcement source” for the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to documents unsealed this week in a Florida court. The businessman, Alex Nain Saab Moran, 51, comes from a Colombian family of Lebanese descent. For the past decade, he has been one of a number of international investors who have done extensive business with the government of Venezuela.

Saab’s loyalty to the Venezuelan government was rewarded with numerous state contracts by the government of President Maduro. Maduro eventually appointed Saab deputy ambassador of Venezuela to the African Union. Critics claimed that Saab’s diplomatic appointment was meant to shield him from warrants for his arrest for money-laundering, which had been issued by numerous countries. The United States, in particular, accused Saab of helping to organize a sophisticated network of shell companies, in order to launder money on behalf of the Venezuelan government.

In June of 2020, as his private airplane was refueling at the island nation of Cape Verde, Saab was arrested by the local police, pursuant to an Interpol “red notice”, which identified him as an individual wanted by the United States government. Saab was on his way back to Venezuela from Iran, where he had traveled as a Venezuelan diplomat. For several months following Saab’s arrest, a team of Venezuelan government lawyers attempted to prevent his extradition to the United States. They failed, however, and the businessman was extradited on October 16, 2021.

Saab is now facing trial in the United States, even though the Venezuelan government claims that he was illegally detained and extradited on Washington’s orders, despite the fact that he was protected by diplomatic immunity. Caracas has since launched an extensive public relations campaign for Saab’s release, which is led by the businessman’s Italian-born wife, Camilla Fabri. The campaign has included rallies in various cities in Venezuela, with the participation of thousands of supporters of Saab and his family.

But Saab’s saga took an unpredictable turn this week, when court documents were unsealed in Miami. They revealed that Saab allegedly met with officers of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bogotá, Colombia, in the summer of 2016. The documents suggest that Saab agreed to cooperate with the United States and that, by 2018, the DEA was referring to him as an “active law enforcement source”. He then allegedly began giving the DEA detailed information about the activities he was undertaking on behalf of the Venezuelan government.

According to local reports from Florida, Saab’s lawyer argued in court that his client deserved to be freed on bond, due to his prior cooperation with the United States government. Later, however, the lawyer rejected media reports that his client was a DEA informant, and said that he “remained a loyal citizen and diplomat” of Venezuela. According to Saab’s lawyer, the sole reason for the businessman’s meetings with the DEA was to “confirm that neither he nor any companies associated with him had done anything wrong”. Additionally, Saab’s contacts with the United States has been “undertaken with the full knowledge and support of the Venezuelan government”, the lawyer said.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 February 2022 | Permalink

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