IranNovember 22 2022, 16:17 pm

Influence Campaign Seeks to Free Columbian Businessman Imprisoned for Helping to Evade US Sanctions on Iran and Venezuela

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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