Colombia’s government has confiscated seven properties belonging to a Colombian businessman who acted as the front man for the regime of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro and is wanted by the U.S. government.
Alex Saab, who was arrested June 12 by authorities in Cape Verde, Africa, owned a 3,740 square-meter mansion which is valued at $7.6 million along with two houses, an apartment and three garages.
Located in the luxurious Riomar neighborhood, the mansion has a pool, gaming area, spa, tennis court and gardens.
The Attorney General’s office said in a statement that the properties were all purchased in August 2017 for $10.3 million under ‘a shell company with resources from Alex Saab’s illegal activities’.
Saab was apprehended on an Interpol warrant on the Cape Verdean island of Sal when his plane stopped to refuel in the former Portuguese colony on the way to Iran. Authorities said he was detained on an Interpol warrant.
Cape Verde approved Saab’s extradition to the U.S. on July 14.
Saab and his business partner, Alvaro Pulido, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to launder and seven counts of money laundering in July 2019 by the Southern District of Florida.
Both are looking at maximum prison sentences of 20 years, if convicted.
The Department of Justice said that ‘beginning in or around November 2011 and continuing until at least September 2015, Saab and Pulido conspired with others to launder the proceeds of an illegal bribery scheme from bank accounts located in Venezuela to and through bank accounts located in the U.S.’
At least $350million was funneled to banks located in Florida.
Investigators from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation found that Saab and Pulido reached a deal in November 2011 with the Venezuelan government for the construction of a low-income housing project.
‘The defendants and their co-conspirators then allegedly took advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rate, under which U.S. dollars could be obtained at a favorable rate, by submitting false and fraudulent import documents for goods and materials that were never imported into Venezuela and bribing Venezuelan government officials to approve those documents,’ the DOJ said.
In private, U.S. officials have long described Saab as a front man for Maduro.
The Trump administration is increasingly going after top officials and business people connected to Maduro.
Venezuela has repeatedly demanded Saab’s release, calling his arrest an illegal act of aggression by the U.S.