American lawyer and financier Alex Saab was extradited on Wednesday and transferred to US authorities where he is expected to appear in court on Monday. Saab, who was arrested in Panama on July 3 after flying into the country from Venezuela on a Venezuelan passport, had been “presumed to be a Russian,” a counterintelligence officer said. He had also visited Venezuela on at least three occasions in 2018. It’s unclear if he’ll face charges for his business relationship with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Saab was well-connected in the Venezuelan government, having hosted Maduro at a lavish birthday party in 2010, telling London’s Telegraph “We had a great time.” The Telegraph reported that Saab, also known as Alejandro Farber, had spent close to $2 billion on state projects, and had three passports: one Panamanian, one Venezuelan and one Russian.
Saab’s arrest, first reported by The Guardian and said to be in connection with a money laundering case, was the first seizure of an individual connected to Maduro since his inauguration as president of Venezuela in 2017. Maduro previously held both the Venezuelan presidency and the top spot at the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, until being unseated in a vote last year. According to a White House national security official, Washington became aware of Saab’s activities in Panama after he and the leaders of several American companies in the airline industry reportedly met with Venezuelan officials on a possible direct flight from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to Panama City.
Venezuela’s overseas seizures are becoming increasingly common. The British billionaire Joe Lewis, one of the highest-profile investors who saw his more than $1 billion holdings in Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA wiped out in a stunning bailout from Russia last year, also bought and lost holdings in properties belonging to Venezuela’s National Assembly and the police force, among other things. After a disagreement with Maduro’s allies, the government had seized those properties as well.
Read the full story at The Guardian.