Maduro ally secretly met with US to give intel on Venezuelan government

Maduro ally secretly met with US to give intel on Venezuelan government
© Associated Press/Ariana Cubillos

Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, secretly met with the U.S. years ago to provide intel on the Venezuelan government, an associate of Saab said in court filings.

The associate, Bruce Bagley, pleaded guilty in 2020 on money laundering charges after he received $2.5 million from Saab, Reuters reported

In a court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for Bagley, a University of Miami professor, said some of the money was to pay attorneys "who were counseling Saab and accompanying him to meetings with the United States government, during which meetings Saab provided information on the Maduro government."

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The admission by the lawyers, in an attempt to get leniency for their client, is the first time these meetings have been publicly disclosed.

Saab was extradited to the U.S. last month on money laundering charges related to a bribery scheme in Venezuela that siphoned $350 million from a state-run low-income housing project. 

Venezuela condemned the extradition, calling it kidnapping and pulling out of talks with the U.S.-backed opposition over the move.

The meetings between the U.S. and Saab began in 2017, according to the filings, two years before U.S. authorities charged Saab with money laundering, according to Reuters. 

An associate of Bagley and Saab “told Dr. Bagley that federal law enforcement authorities wanted Alex Saab to provide intelligence with regard to the Venezuelan government, and the meetings had already begun,” the filing stated. 

Bagley’s attorney said Saab could not pay his U.S. lawyers directly for the meetings and had to have Bagley do it, due to fear of Venezuelan officials finding out, as Saab has close connections with the government and Maduro himself, The Associated Press reported.