Cape Verde grants house arrest to jailed Maduro envoy, lawyers say

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Cape Verde court has granted house arrest to a Colombian businessman linked to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who is wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of money laundering, his lawyers said on Thursday.

The archipelago nation detained Alex Saab when his plane stopped to refuel in June. He is now fighting extradition to the United States, which says Saab is helping undermine Washington’s sanctions on Maduro’s government.

“We look forward to (Saab) now being able to receive the specialist medical attention he needs as well as being able to engage with all his defense, his family as well as access to Venezuela consular officials,” said Jose-Manuel Monteiro, one of Saab’s lawyers, in a statement.

A West African court called the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice had granted the house arrest in December.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said the Cape Verde government had not carried out the decision because it refused to recognize ECOWAS’ jurisdiction.

At the time of Saab’s arrest, Venezuela said he was acting as a special envoy for Maduro’s government, whose capacity to import goods has steadily declined as Washington has tightened sanctions meant to force the ruling Socialist Party from office.

Saab has been repeatedly identified by the State Department as a operator who helps Maduro arrange trade deals of the sort Washington seeks to block through sanctions.

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department sanctioned a group of oil traders and vessels it said had conspired with Saab and others to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in Venezuelan oil.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Marguerita Choy