Venezuelan envoy will plead not guilty to money laundering charges in US: lawyer

Venezuelan envoy will plead not guilty to money laundering charges in US: lawyer
© Getty

An envoy for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will plead not guilty to money laundering charges he is facing in the U.S., his lawyer told Reuters Thursday.

Alex Saab stands accused of using a low-income housing project in Venezuela to gain $350 million in personal wealth. He was extradited to the U.S. and will appear in court on Nov. 1.

"Of course our client will be pleading not guilty when arraigned," lawyer Henry Bell told Reuters.

ADVERTISEMENT

U.S. officials have been after Saab for years, as they say he knows how Maduro and his allies have been able to use government contracts to make millions of dollars.

The U.S. claims Saab bribed officials, as well as Maduro’s stepsons, to gain access to overvalued government contracts, according to Reuters. 

Corruption in the Venezuelan government has led to hyperinflation and food shortages for citizens, millions of whom have fled the country.

Maduro's administration has condemned the extradition of Saab from Cape Verde to the U.S., calling the extradition “kidnapping” and pulling out of talks with the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition that were planned to take place in Mexico. 

“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela repudiates this grave violation of human rights against a Venezuelan citizen, invested as a diplomat and representative of our country before the world,” the Venezuelan government said in a statement following the extradition.