© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A girl walks by a mural in help of the liberation of Colombian businessman and envoy Alex Saab, who’s detained in Cape Verde on fees of laundering cash for the federal government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/File Photo
By Luc Cohen and Alexandra Ulmer
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro extradited to Miami final month on cash laundering fees, met with U.S. law enforcement years in the past to offer info on Maduro’s authorities, in accordance with records within the U.S. court case of an alleged ex-associate.
Bruce Bagley https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-corruption/u-s-charges-miami-professor-in-venezuela-money-laundering-scheme-idUSKBN1XS2G4, a former University of Miami professor who studied drug trafficking in Latin America, was arrested in November 2019 on fees he acquired $2.5 million in deposits from abroad accounts that have been managed by Saab, and that he retained a fee. He pleaded responsible final yr.
In a doc submitted to a Manhattan federal court late on Tuesday in an effort to hunt a lenient sentence, Bagley’s attorneys stated an middleman – whose title was redacted within the submitting – informed Bagley the cash he acquired was to pay attorneys who have been helping Saab with his cooperation.
“The purpose of the additional money was to pay Saab’s lawyers in the United States who were counseling Saab and accompanying him to meetings with the United States government, during which meetings Saab provided information on the Maduro government,” his attorneys wrote.
The conferences had begun by 2017, in accordance with the submitting.
Saab was detained in Cape Verde final yr on a U.S. warrant and was extradited in October. His case, which pits Washington towards Maduro’s socialist authorities, has drawn consideration as a result of Saab has emerged in latest years as a key dealer in serving to Caracas bypass U.S. sanctions to import items.
David Rivkin, an lawyer for Saab, stated in a press release that Bagley had by no means labored for his consumer.
“Any claims [Saab] has cooperated with the U.S. authorities against the interests of Venezuela are totally false,” Rivkin stated. “At all times, Alex Saab has been a loyal citizen of Venezuela and has conducted all of his activities with the full knowledge and blessing of the government of Venezuela.”
Venezuela’s info ministry didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Another Saab lawyer, Henry Bell, had beforehand stated Saab will plead not responsible https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/venezuela-envoy-saab-plead-not-guilty-money-laundering-lawyer-2021-10-28 to the U.S. fees.
Bagley’s assertion that Saab beforehand met with law enforcement might spur hopes amongst Venezuela’s opposition that he’ll cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, who’ve accused Maduro and different Venezuelan officers of drug trafficking.
Bagley’s attorneys wrote that the unnamed middleman between the 2 males “told Dr. Bagley that federal law enforcement authorities wanted Alex Saab to provide intelligence with regard to the Venezuelan government, and the meetings had already begun.”
The assertion got here in a request filed late on Tuesday by attorneys for Bagley, 75, requesting he be sentenced to time served resulting from his age and sick well being. That doc was deleted on Wednesday resulting from directions by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, and a brand new model with the references to Saab’s conferences with U.S. officers redacted was later filed.
A consultant for Rakoff declined to touch upon why the doc was deleted.
Saab might have met with U.S. authorities to keep away from felony fees or discover the opportunity of cooperation in trade for leniency, stated Barbara Llanes, a former federal prosecutor and accomplice on the Gelber Schachter & Greenberg law agency in Miami.
Erick Cruz, a Miami protection lawyer, stated Saab’s statements in any prior conferences with law enforcement would doubtless not be admissible in his personal potential trial.