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Crime Mapper: Corruption & Courts

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Alex Saab's lawyers warn that the US bases extradition request on a flawed argument

On August 13, the Constitutional Court could issue the final decision in the case. However, there are some sources that indicate that the process could take longer.

By Maibort Petit


Alex Saab's team of defense lawyers issued a statement warning of alleged mistakes made by Cape Verde's Attorney General, José Landim, with the sole aim of facilitating the businessman's extradition to the United States.


Corruption case of Alex Saab
Alex Saab Fighting Extradition to the USA Courts

Specifically, Landim, in one of the paragraphs of the document, would have stated that the diplomatic commitments made by the U.S. government through its Departments of State and Justice would constitute an obligation for U.S. courts, which, in Saab's representatives' view, is incorrect.

They recall that the United States Constitution is based on the principle of the separation of powers, so the Judiciary is independent of the Executive Branch. On this basis, U.S. courts only submit to U.S. constitutional dictates and laws, so even though treaties are part of the law, they only bind the courts to the extent that they create "self-executing" provisions that the defendant himself has the right to enforce.


The statement from Saab's lawyers stresses that the "specialty rule" applies in extradition cases where a country has entered into certain specific commitments to another country as a condition of securing custody of the extradited person. "It provides that, where such commitments involve a limitation of the offences for which an extradited person may be prosecuted, that person may only be tried for the specifically declared offences. No new charges can be brought against that person."


And they warn then that, although the rule is of general application, it has important limitations in the United States, applicable in the case of Álex Saab Morán. According to binding judicial precedent applicable to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida where the case against Saab Moran is being prosecuted, it applies only when the extradition has been based on an extradition treaty that specifically includes the "specialty rule" between the United States and the country from which the extradition was requested. , in this case Cape Verde.


In the absence of an extradition treaty between the US and Cape Verde, this commitment cannot be established, even if the United States commits itself to fulfilling the commitment. Therefore, the Justice Department could bring additional charges if it deems it appropriate against Saab.


This means that as long as the Cape Verdean authorities support their decision on the specialty rule to justify its approval, they would not be guaranteeing any protection required for Saab Morán in a trial that could have a life sentence, which is inadmissible in Cape Verde.


The communique ends with the warning about the contradictory fact that, on the one hand, it is argued that the United States makes its extradition request on the basis of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Crime — which does not apply since UNTOC does not include the specialty clause — and on the other, the UNITED STATES says that it will apply the United Nations mechanism[1].


Countdown


But the pitched battle being waged in the Cape Verdean courts, where from one side and the other there is a shooting to kill, seems to be in its final stages given that on August 13, the Cape Verdean Constitutional Court is expected to issue the final decision in this case.

Vital to Saab's defense is the ruling that the constitutional court adopts regarding the aforementioned rule of the specialty and what has been its review of the process that has already exceeded more than a year.


This decision is fundamental, since the Supreme Court of Justice authorized the extraction on March 17.


Among the latest rounds of this tough fight, Alex Saab lashed out in an open letter against prosecutor Landim, whom he and Prime Minister Ulisses Correia told of hiding information and lying. He again accused the Cape Verdean government of having "beaten him out" of the plane when he stopped to refuel to continue his trip to Iran where he was supposed to serve a diplomatic mission on behalf of Venezuela.

Saab refers in his pronouncement that the prosecutor has ignored his arguments and accused him of handing over erroneous information to the Constitutional Court[2].


UK calls it corrupt


And if it is a question of accusations, the United Kingdom, through the foreign secretary, did not hesitate to describe Alex Saab as corrupt, when announcing the Colombian's entry into the list of citizens sanctioned for acts of corruption.


The decision of the United Kingdom is based on the accusation that the United States maintains against Saab in the courts, where he is accused, together with his partner Álvaro Enrique Pulido, of enriching himself with cosa te of the programs of food and housing of the Venezuelan government[3].


The British government imposed sanctions on Saab and Pulido, consisting of the freezing of their assets in the United Kingdom and a ban on entry into the country.


The British foreign ministry in explaining the reason for its sanctions said Saab and Pulido "benefited from improperly awarded contracts, in which promised goods were delivered at highly inflated prices. Its actions caused more suffering to the Venezuelans, already hit by poverty, for their own private enrichment"[4].


Appeal dismissed

Prior to this, the Constitutional Court of Cape Verde had rejected on July 21 the appeal filed by the defense of who is accused of being a front man for Nicolás Maduro, which sought to suspend the extradition process due to a request from the UN Human Rights Committee.

The court decided unanimously to dismiss the appeal of "compliance with the request for the adoption of provisional measures", on the grounds that the Cape Verdean state has no obligation to comply with the request of the United Nations committee and because "there are not sufficiently persuasive reasons to justify its acceptance"[5].


References

[1] Justice Fuser. "Statement from the defense team of diplomat Alex Saab". August 4, 2021. https://www.justiciafuser.com/declaracion-del-equipo-de-defensa-del-diplomatico-alex-saab/

[2] The Time. "Saab lashes out at Cape Verdean prosecutor ad portas de extradición." July 27, 2021. https://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/alex-saab-arremete-contra-fiscal-y-primer-ministro-de-cabo-verde-606171

[3] Time. "Uk calls Saab corrupt and imposes sanctions on him." July 22, 2021. https://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/alex-saab-y-alvaro-pulido-sancionados-por-el-reino-unido-605020

[4] Week. "Alex Saab's accounts are frozen in the United Kingdom for embezzling public aid in Venezuela." July 22, 2021. https://www.semana.com/mundo/articulo/congelan-cuentas-de-alex-saab-en-el-reino-unido-por-malversar-ayudas-publicas-en-venezuela/202146/

[5] Infobae. "The Constitutional Court of Cape Verde refused to suspend the extradition of Alex Saab to the United States." July 21, 2021. https://www.infobae.com/america/venezuela/2021/07/21/el-tribunal-constitucional-de-cabo-verde-rechazo-suspender-la-extradicion-de-alex-saab-a-estados-unidos/


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