Cape Verde Supreme Court rules on extradition of Maduro envoy

PRAIA (Reuters) - Cape Verde’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday to allow the extradition to the United States of Alex Saab, a businessman close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro - a decision his lawyers vowed to appeal.

The ruling defies an order this week from a regional West African court for Saab’s release. The Colombian businessman, who was detained in Cape Verde last June, is wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of laundering money on behalf of Venezuela’s government.

Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement, his defence team said: “We will appeal to the Constitutional Court and reaffirm our confidence in the release of Ambassador Saab.”

Saab has been repeatedly named by the U.S. State Department as an operator who helps Maduro arrange trade deals that Washington is seeking to block through sanctions. His lawyers have called the U.S. charges “politically motivated.”

On Monday the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled that Saab’s detention was illegal because an Interpol red notice requesting his arrest was only issued the day after he was detained in Cape Verde.

Reporting by Julio Rodrigues; Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Philippa Fletcher