US media is reporting on what is described as a years-long influence campaign to free a well-known Colombian businessman with ties to both countries. According to the report by The Record, the campaign centers on Alex Saab, who is awaiting trial on money laundering charges in connection with helping Iran and Venezuela evade US sanctions:
Iran and Venezuela have allegedly been orchestrating a years-long influence campaign to free Alex Saab, a well-known Colombian businessman with ties to both countries. In a report from Recorded Future published Thursday, researchers said they found a widespread influence campaign centered around Saab, who was arrested in Cape Verde and extradited to the U.S. where he awaits trial on money laundering charges. The Record is an editorially independent unit of Recorded Future. Saab is accused of helping Venezuela and Iran evade sanctions issued by the U.S. government. His arrest was criticized by several international organizations including the African Bar Association and Code Pink because of Saab’s status as a diplomat of Venezuela.The Department of the Treasury sanctioned Saab in 2019 for his work with the Venezuelan government, accusing him of laundering money through a Venezuelan government food subsidy program called the Local Committees for Supply and Production and siphoning millions for himself.Venezuela sought to give Saab diplomatic immunity by appointing him as a special envoy to Iran in April 2020. He helped facilitate a deal in early 2020 where Venezuela exchanged about $500 million worth of gold for 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and petrochemical components from Iran.He continued his role as a facilitator between Iran and Venezuela until his arrest in June 2020 on the Cape Verde island of Sal. He was extradited to the U.S. in October 2021, and now faces several federal charges related to money laundering.He denied the charges in a 2021 interview with CNN, telling the news outlet that the accusations of money laundering are “unfounded, purely political, and artificially built by the authorities to serve political interests.
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