Alex Saab, an aide to Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the United States to face charges bordering on money laundering.
The announcement was made by Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government’s negotiating team.
The development is described by the Venezuelan government in a statement circulating on social media as a “kidnapping.” The government has now suspended negotiations with the U.S. government, billed to commence on Sunday in Mexico.
The talks had been set to find a resolution to the political crisis that led to violence and the collapse of the South American country’s economy.
The U.S. Treasury had accused Mr Saab of using his accounts in American banks to launder the proceeds of corruption, though Mr Saab was selected to be a member of the government’s negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico.
Mr Saab was detained in June last year, when his plane made a stopover to refuel in Cape Verde. He was arrested on alleged corruption by Interpol and security operatives on a U.S. arrest warrant.
Mr Saab said he was travelling on an official mission to obtain medical supplies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, denying all the charges and saying they are politically motivated.
In April, the government of Venezuela was accused of contracting social media influencers on Twitter to warn Cape Verde against extraditing Mr Saab to the U.S.
Peoples Gazette reported that social media influencers and some Nigerian media outlets were enlisted to campaign for Mr Saab in a bid to block his extradition.
A popular social media activist Pamilerin Adegoke, tweeting as @UnclePamilerin, had his Twitter handle suspended along with hundreds of Nigerian accounts in the aftermath.
Findings by The Gazette showed the accounts have been suspended for violating Twitter rules, although it was not clear if the action was connected to the campaign. A spokesperson for Twitter said in an e-mail to The Gazette that the accounts breached the company’s rules on artificially boosting content and paying for fake engagement.