ABUJA, March 15 (Reuters) - A West African court on Monday ordered Cape Verde to release Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who is wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of laundering money on behalf of Venezuela’s government.
Saab, who is close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was detained in Cape Verde last June when his plane stopped there to refuel. He faces extradition to the United States, which accuses him of violating U.S. sanctions.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court in Nigeria’s capital Abuja ruled that Saab’s detention was illegal because an Interpol red notice requesting his arrest was only issued the day after he was detained on June 12.
It ordered Cape Verde to release Saab immediately, compensate him $200,000 and “discontinue all proceedings and processes aimed at extraditing (him) to the USA”, a summary of the judgement said.
The Cape Verde government could not be immediately reached for comment.
At the time of his arrest, Saab was en route to Iran to negotiate shipments of fuel and humanitarian supplies to Venezuela, his lawyers told Reuters.
Saab has been repeatedly identified by the U.S. State Department as an operator who helps Maduro arrange trade deals that Washington is seeking to block through sanctions.
The ECOWAS court in December had ordered him to be transferred to house arrest in a hotel or house of his choice, after his representatives argued that the conditions of his detention were “inhumane” and that his health was deteroriating.
Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Aaron Ross and Raissa Kasolowsky
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