Politics

Alex Saab: a diplomat for Venezuela, but a DEA informant U.S. court records show

Court documents show that Alex Saab was an informant to the D.E.A. in 2018, but the cooperation stopped after he didn't surrender to the U.S. law enforcement as agreed.

DEA Agent
© U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Instagram

Alex Saab, considered as a diplomat by Venezuela and extradited by the United States last year, secretly signed up as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018.

He was revealing information about bribes he paid to top officials in Nicolás Maduro's socialist government of Venezuela.

He also wired three payments to D.E.A. accounts containing almost 10 million dollars he earned through corruption.

But his contacts with the D.E.A. abruptly stopped after he missed a deadline in May 2019 to surrender as previously agreed, according to prosecutors.

The information became public after a closed-door hearing on February 16 in Miami federal court.

Neil Schuster, an attorney for Alex Saab, yet argued his family in Venezuela could be incarcerated or physically harmed if his collaboration with the U.S. drug agency became known. "If the Venezuelan government finds out the extent of what this individual has provided, I have no doubt that there will be retaliation against his wife and his children".

But Saab's legal team hadn't accepted a previous offer to assist his family in leaving Venezuela. Other attorneys for Saab always denied his cooperation with the U.S.

Judge Robert Scola unsealed the transcript, explaining the public’s right to access criminal proceedings outweighs any concerns about his family's safety.

Alex Saab accused of participation in a corruption scheme in Venezuela

Alex Saab, a Colombia-born businessman was extradited to the U.S. on October 16, 2021. He was arrested in Cape Verde in June 2020 during a fuel stop between Iran and Venezuela.

Saab is accused of having participated in an illegal bribery scheme. In 2019, he was indicted by the federal court of Miami on charges of siphoning millions from Venezuela state contracts. He would have bribed Venezuelan officials to build affordable housing in 2011.

He then allegedly took advantage of the government's specific exchange rate with US dollars and would bribe government officials to approve import documents for goods and materials that he never imported. With his business partner, the U.S. Department of Justice claims he transferred approximately $350 million out of Venezuela to U.S. bank accounts.

Venezuela yet officially considers him as a diplomat. The trip from Iran was a humanitarian trip for Venezuelan officials; and his arrest a breach to diplomatic conventions.

Few hours after Alex Saab's extradition to the U.S., Venezuela jailed U.S. executives of an oil company previously under house arrest.

Moreover, Nicolas Maduro's regime decided to stop negotiations with the US-backed opposition coalition ahead of the legislative elections. The regime claims Alex Saab was an official member of the delegation participating in the talks seeking political stability in the country.

And discussions would not resume without the release of Alex Saab, who was kidnapped by the U.S. according to Nicolas Maduro.

The vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, reaffirmed this position on a pro-Maduro newspaper on February 14. He asserted Alex Saab was charged in the U.S. because he "dared to confront the North American blockade" against Venezuela.

Another Saab attorney, who is fighting to get Saab's status as a Venezuelan diplomat recognized by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, vehemently rejected claims that the businessman had been cooperating with U.S. investigators.

None of the alleged corrupt Venezuelan officials have been named in the court records.

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