Master of trade-based money laundering extradited to and charged in US

Alleged financier to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Alex Saab, has been charged in an indictment with laundering the proceeds of violations of the US’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to take advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rate.

Last year the Colombian businessman was arrested whilst the private jet he was flying in was refuelling in the African island republic of Cape Verde where he has been held until his extradition to the US earlier this month (Trade-based Financial Crime, 24 June 2020).

Political repercussions

Dubbed “the master of trade-based money laundering” by former Miami prosecutor Dick Gregorie, Saab is accused of bribing Venezuelan government officials and funnelling more than US$350 million into overseas accounts.

“Venezuela has been robbed blind with every transaction that he does,” according to Gregorie, who was involved in earlier investigations into Saab’s activities.

Extensive money laundering

Saab was initially charged by the US in 2019 along with another Colombian citizen, Alvaro Pulido Vargas, in an eight-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering.

The indictment alleges that they conspired with others to launder the proceeds of an illegal bribery scheme from bank accounts located in Venezuela to and through US bank accounts. They also obtained a contract with the Venezuelan government in November 2011 to build low-income housing units.

False import documents

The defendants and their co-conspirators then took advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rate, under which US dollars could be obtained at a favourable rate, by submitting false and fraudulent import documents for goods and materials that were never imported into Venezuela.

Saab and Pulido also bribed Venezuelan government officials to approve those documents according to the indictment.


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