LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Cape Verde’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a businessman close to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who was arrested last year in the West African country can be extradited to the United States to face money-laundering charges, a lawyer said.
Geraldo Almeida, one of the Cape Verde attorneys representing Alex Saab in his fight against extradition, said his legal team would appeal the decision at the country’s Constitutional Court.
“We’re hopeful the Constitutional Court will overturn the Supreme Court’s decision,” Almeida told The Associated Press by telephone.
Cape Verde arrested the Colombian-born businessman last June when his jet made a refueling stop on a flight to Iran.
Saab’s attorneys argue that their client is immune from prosecution as a result of the many diplomatic posts he has held for Maduro’s government since 2018.
U.S. 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. At the time of his arrest, he was allegedly traveling to Tehran to negotiate deals to exchange Venezuelan gold for Iranian gasoline.