Washington — The Biden administration has secured a deal with Venezuela that would see the release of one of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s close allies from U.S. custody in exchange for at least eight Americans held in Venezuela, including some who are designated as wrongfully detained, according to three current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The deal is expected to include additional individuals in U.S. and Venezuelan custody.
As has been the case with previous prisoner exchanges, the swap is likely to take place in a third country.
The Maduro ally, Colombia-born Alex Nain Saab Morán, was charged in Florida in 2019 for money laundering and was arrested in 2020 in the Republic of Cabo Verde while en route to Iran. Saab was extradited to the U.S. the next year to face criminal prosecution. He pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have since been trying to get his case dismissed by claiming diplomatic immunity.
Federal prosecutors alleged Saab and another co-conspirator bribed Venezuelan officials to secure illegal business advantages and laundered money. Beginning in 2011, Saab allegedly entered into a contract with the Venezuelan government to construct low-income housing and then submit false documents for some $350 million in reimbursements, investigators said. He was accused of using the government-controlled currency exchange system to transfer the funds into the U.S. from Venezuela and then to foreign accounts.