Antiguans and Barbudans are keeping a close eye on a development that involves former Economic Envoy Alex Nain Saab Moran.
Reports from international media indicate that Saab Moran, reportedly a close aide of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, has been extradited to the United States.
A BBC report says Saab Moran, a Colombian by birth, has been charged with money laundering. But he reportedly has denied the charges leveled against him, saying they are politically motivated.
The US Treasury alleges that Saab Moran, a businessman, worked as a front man for Maduro’s regime and was a Venezuelan envoy. It is further alleged that the diplomat used his accounts in American banks to launder the proceeds of corruption.
Saab Moran is accused “of making large amounts of money from overvalued contracts, as well as from Venezuela’s government-set exchange rate and centralised system of import and distribution of basic foods,” according to the BBC report.
On a request from the US Government, Saab Moran had been detained by the Cape Verde authorities since June 2020, when his plane made a stop there for refueling.
He was reportedly on an official mission to obtain medical supplies for Venezuela to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Venezuela has since accused the United States of kidnapping the diplomat. And, on Saturday, the Maduro Administration announced the suspension of negotiations with the Opposition party – which were set to resume on Sunday in Mexico – claiming that Saab Moran had been expected to be part of its negotiating team.
While Venezuela is put out by the extradition and the Opposition is put out by the suspension of negotiations, Saab Moran’s country of birth is pleased.
“Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted that Mr. Saab’s extradition was ‘a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption by the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro,’” the news article reports.
Meanwhile, nationals in the US Diaspora tell REAL News they will be keeping a close eye on the federal investigation as Saab Moran makes his first court appearance on Monday.
Our Washington source adds that Prime Minister Gaston Browne must be uneasy about the outcome, given the association between the two men and allegations that certain banks in Antigua were used to pass “dirty money.”
Other suspicions surrounded the late-night landing of a Venezuelan aircraft here last year, with sources alleging that it carried illicit “cargo.”
Browne appointed Saab Moran an economic envoy in 2014, just three months after the Antigua Labour Party won the general elections and took office.
After reports surfaced that the Colombian was wanted by his home country in connection with several international rackets, Saab Moran’s diplomatic passport allegedly was revoked by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
He is just one of several others who have brought the country’s name into disrepute over allegations of corruption and fraud.
Recent revelations from the Pandora Papers indicate that a Canadian with an Antigua & Barbuda passport – Alexandre Cazes (pronounced Cars) – was also charged by the United States with serious crimes, including money laundering.
In July 2017, Cazes was found dead in his cell in a jail in Thailand, where he was being held.
Local sources say the home he owned here was speedily cleared out after his death; it is not known whether this was done on instructions by the Police.