Venezuelan President Sent Letter to Khamenei Accrediting US Fugitive
A Colombian businessman was carrying a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accrediting him to Iran’s supreme leader when he was arrested on a US warrant last year, according to a new court filing in a politically charged corruption case ratcheting up tensions with the South American nation.
Attorneys for Alex Saab made the filing in Miami federal court on Thursday just hours after prosecutors in the African nation of Cape Verde said they granted the 49-year-old Colombian house arrest as he fights extradition to the US to face money laundering charges, The Associated Press reported.
US officials believe Saab holds numerous secrets about how Maduro, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts amid widespread hunger in the oil-rich nation.
He was detained last June when his jet made a refueling stop on a flight to Tehran, where he was allegedly sent to negotiate deals to exchange Venezuelan gold for Iranian gasoline.
Lawyers filed a motion seeking to dismiss the US charges, arguing Saab is immune from prosecution as a result of the many diplomatic posts he has held for Maduro’s government since 2018.
As evidence, they presented letters signed by Maduro’s foreign minister purportedly accrediting Saab as a special envoy for humanitarian aid as well as a resolution — signed last month — naming him Venezuela’s alternate permanent representative to the African Union in Ethiopia.
There is also a letter, addressed to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which Maduro asks the Iranian supreme leader to help Saab obtain an “urgent” shipment of 5 million barrels of gasoline following the arrival of several previous shipments from Iran.
Another apparent diplomatic note, from the Iranian Embassy in Caracas, refers to Saab’s upcoming “official” visit and a request for the delivery of Iranian-made medicines.