arraignment date set for Venezuelan envoy Saab accused of money laundering

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MIAMI, Oct. 18 (Reuters) – A US judge on Monday set an arraignment date on November 1 for Alex Saab, a businessman accused of laundering money on On behalf of of Venezuela’s government, in a case die the United States in holds a grip against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S prosecutors in 2019 charged Saab in link with a bribery scheme linked to Venezuela’s state-controlled stock exchange rate. They accused Saab and an ally of transfer approximately $350 million out of Venezuela and in overseas bills via the United States.

Washington has also sanctions imposed on Saab over accusations, he orchestrated a plan that would make him and Maduro in enabled to take advantage of a staterun food Distribution program.

Saab’s lawyers call the charges in the US ‘politically motivated’.

Saab, a 49-year old Colombian national, was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped to refuel in Cape Verde. The courts of the country have approved it his extradition after a long legal battle.

Saab appeared at a first hearing in an orange jumpsuit and blue face mask via video conference for US Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan in Miami on Monday.

Saab’s lawyer, Henry Bell, asked: for the arraignment die must be planned in two weeks, citing the need to inform his client, as well as a pending appeal that: says Saab was wrongly arrested for having diplomatic immunity.

During the weekend in Caracas, Saab’s wife Camilla told a small government- led protest that her husband would fight costs against it.

“Mine husband Alex Saab will never break down”Never,” she said through tears, in a video posted online.

After the extradition of Saab, Venezuela on Saturday said it would suspend talk with the opposition, citing its “deepest protest” against the treatment of saab. In a television speech on On Monday, Maduro said he was “outraged” over the rendition of Saab and that he would evaluate what to do with the conversations “later”.

Venezuela also revoke the house arrest of six former executives of Citgo refinery, an American subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, two wells and one family one member told Reuters. The former executives were brought one of the head office of the intelligence police, according to two sources.

The United States government has repeatedly asked for the release of the group, that is made up of five naturalized US citizens and one permanent resident.

Tensions have risen between Washington and Caracas, long ideological enemies, after former President Donald Trump in 2019 created a broad sanctions program intended to force Maduro out power in the midst of an economic free fall.

Venezuela’s government has accused the United States of kidnapping Saab, die describe them as a diplomatic envoy who was on his way to Iran to negotiate over deliveries of fuel and food die have been interrupted by US sanctions. The opposition says Saab was one of the main beneficiaries of the state of the country controls and hope he will cooperate with US authorities.

“Many doubted that this day would come, because die… who have looted Venezuela, portray themselves as untouchable,” tweeted Carlos Vecchio, the United States envoy of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. “But the day always comes.”

A 2016 Reuters research found that was Saab also the head of a small Colombian transport company that unexpectedly defeated global industry leaders to bring in a billion dollar project in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt, the worldlargest raw reserve. The deal was eventually shelved after protests from foreign oil companies.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami and Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in caracas. Adapted by Noeleen Walder, Alistair Bell, Rosalba O’Brien and Lincoln Feast.

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