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Cape Verde's top court approves Maduro envoy's extradition to U.S.

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Birds fly next to a Venezuelan flag in Caracas, Venezuela January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

PRAIA, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Cape Verde's highest court ruled on Tuesday that Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who is wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, should be extradited to the United States.

Saab, who is close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was detained in Cape Verde in June 2020 when his plane stopped there to refuel. He faces extradition to the United States, which accuses him of violating U.S. sanctions.

Saab's lawyers have called the U.S. charges "politically motivated."

A West African regional court ruled in March that Saab's detention was illegal because an Interpol red notice requesting his arrest was only issued the day after he was detained.

However, Cape Verde's constitutional court rejected the West African court's jurisdiction in the case and, in a written judgment, confirmed a lower court's ruling that Saab should be extradited.

The constitutional court's ruling cannot be appealed.

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.

Reporting by Julio Rodrigues; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler

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