US judge dismisses most money laundering charges against Maduro ally Saab

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A U.S. judge in Florida on Monday dismissed money laundering counts against Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but he remains accused of one count of conspiracy to launder money, a court filing showed.

The order was issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. The conspiracy charge that remains carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Saab, a Colombia-born businessman and top dealmaker for Maduro’s socialist government, siphoned around $350 million out of Venezuela via the United States as part of a bribery scheme linked to Venezuela’s state-controlled exchange rate.

One of Saab’s lawyers, Henry Bell, told Reuters last week that his client would plead not guilty at an arraignment that had been originally scheduled for Monday but was postponed to Nov. 15. Bell declined to comment on Monday’s decision.

Maduro’s allies have characterized Washington’s pursuit of Saab as part of an “economic war” on Venezuela being waged by the U.S. government. The case has strained already frayed relations between Washington and Caracas.

via Reuters

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