Colombian-born businessman Alex Saab assured Efe that he “would not collaborate with the United States” if he were extradited to that country by Cape Verde, where he is being held at Washington’s request.
The businessman’s name went around the world last June 12, when he was arrested, by surprise, while his plane was making a stopover to refuel at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the Cape Verdean island of Sal, following a request from the U.S. government through Interpol for alleged money laundering.
“My illegal detention is totally politically motivated and it is pathetic that the Government of Cape Verde has bent the knee before (…) the USA”, declares to Efe Alex Saab, 49, in an interview made with a written questionnaire sent from his captivity in Sal, where he only has telephone access to his family and his lawyers.
The Government and a court of the African country have approved the surrender of the alleged front man, appointed by Venezuela as “special envoy” and “deputy permanent representative” to the African Union, although he has appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice of Cape Verde.
Nevertheless, the businessman is pinning his hopes on the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is due to rule this month on his extradition and which already at the end of 2020 ruled in favor of his house arrest, which the Cape Verdean authorities complied with very reluctantly.
Alex Saab said he would not collaborate with the U.S.
“I have not committed any crime,” says Ambassador Saab, who began his career in Barranquilla (Colombia) and today is related to several companies, including Group Grand Limited (GGL), accused of covering up the cost overruns of the CLAP program of the Maduro government to provide food to the poor.
“I am guarded by 50 armed guards”.
– Nearly nine months since your arrest in Cape Verde, how are you feeling as you move from prison to house arrest?
– To be honest, nothing has really changed. I am under house arrest in name only. I am watched by 50 armed guards, my lawyers are searched when they come and when they leave, my medicine bottles are emptied, even when they are new and sealed. If I go out in the garden, the National Police follow my every move with drones. I am not allowed internet access and if I want to talk to my family, I have to do it with a cell phone provided and monitored by the National Police.
– You required house arrest for several ailments, has your health improved with that change?
– In a word, no. Cape Verde still refuses to let me have access to specialist doctors of my choice, even at my expense. With so many armed guards around me I am very stressed. The Cape Verdean game of psychological torture, started in prison, continues under this false house arrest. The guards are continually pointing their guns within earshot of me and I fear it only takes one mistake, one miscalculation on their part, one stubbed finger and who knows what might happen.
– How did you start working with the Maduro government? Did you know Maduro before he became president of Venezuela?
– I met President Maduro when I was Foreign Minister under President (Hugo) Chavez. I started working with departments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela during the time of President Chavez. Starting with the construction in 2011 of a social housing project, I have been able to demonstrate that I can deliver important projects on time and within budget (…). The experience I gained while managing and organizing the logistics involved in the social housing contract was recognized by President Maduro’s government and we were awarded our first contract to become a supplier to the government’s social welfare food program in 2015.
– Since you were arrested in Cape Verde, have you spoken to Maduro?
– I have not spoken to President Maduro, but I am delighted to have received through official channels a message of support and encouragement that I appreciate.
– The US accuses you of having laundered, together with your partner, Alvaro Pulido, up to 350 million dollars. How do you respond to this accusation?
– Since my indictment and appointment in July 2019, the United States has not presented a single piece of evidence to support the accusations that have been made. Not a single one. The only evidence consists of insinuations and half-truths coming from discredited witnesses who received US citizenship in exchange (…). As for the $350 million figure, my defense team has assembled a powerful rebuttal to the allegations and I know that, if the time comes, we will be able to forcefully dismiss them.
-Do you believe that the extradition demand is a settling of scores by the United States with President Maduro?
– The fact is that Cape Verde could not and should not stop me. I was (and still am) a Special Envoy of the Bolivarian Republic carrying out a Special Humanitarian Mission to procure basic foodstuffs, medicines and much needed medical equipment for the people of Venezuela. Therefore, I enjoyed immunity and inviolability, as established by the centuries-old laws governing the movement of diplomats and political agents.
My illegal detention is entirely politically motivated, and it is pathetic that the Government of Cape Verde has bent the knee to the political will of the United States instead of preserving its own dignity and refusing to participate in this farce of politically motivated judicial overreach.
-Do you consider that Cape Verde acted under U.S. pressure?
– Yes, of course. It is clear and unequivocal.
-The Donald Trump Administration requested your arrest. What do you expect from Joe Biden’s Administration?
– President Biden has announced that “America is back!”. That the United States is ready to resume its seat at the table of nations that respect the rule of law and their international obligations. Actions speak louder than words, so I can only hope that President Biden’s actions live up to his words.
– If the ECOWAS Court rules against your extradition process, are you confident that Cape Verde will comply with that ruling?
– If, with the Almighty’s help, the ECOWAS Court rules this way, I can only pray that the current regime in Cape Verde will take it as an opportunity to salvage what is left of the facade of “a model African democracy” and break free from the political spell cast by the Trump regime and honor such a decision.
– Should Cape Verde finally approve your extradition to the U.S., would you be willing to collaborate with U.S. Justice?
– No, I would not collaborate with the United States. However, let me be very clear. I have committed no crime. My lawyers and I will fight, if necessary, in all courts to prove it with the full support of Venezuela. The only guilty party here is the United States, which has orchestrated a campaign of political hegemony against Venezuela.