Written by Staff Writer by Alexander Haislip, CNN Washington
Less than 24 hours after being arrested by federal agents on several charges related to money laundering and bribery, financier Julio Borges, alias Alex Saab, will appear in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court to face his alleged crimes, his lawyer said Friday.
According to court documents, Saab, 56, was indicted Thursday on five counts of money laundering, two counts of wire fraud and one count of bribery.
He is accused of soliciting and receiving millions of dollars from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, his relatives and other government officials. He is also accused of accepting a kickback from George Basquez, a principal of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based asbestos remediation company Hekemian & Co.
CNN has not been able to reach Hekemian for comment.
Saab’s attorney, Janice Silverman, said he would be pleading not guilty to the charges and is due back in court Monday.
“The Justice Department has played a terrible game of ‘hide and seek’ with Mr. Saab,” Silverman said. “The U.S. government has not released his confession to international investigators. It has not been publicly available online for the past nine months. It has not been published in any court papers.”
Saab is being held at the Alexandria Detention Center and will plead not guilty to the charges at Monday’s hearing, Silverman said.
Prosecutors said in a criminal complaint filed Thursday that Saab’s information is significant in the investigation of the money that funds Maduro’s actions as president.
Saab allegedly raised $20 million that was to be invested in the “Maduro regime.” Saab recruited various government officials to join his consortium in the investment and then allegedly steered the money to himself and subsequently other funds, according to the complaint.
The former financier is also accused of soliciting $5 million from an unnamed former US ambassador in exchange for appointing one of Saab’s close friends to the United Nations.
He was arrested by a team of prosecutors and agents with the US attorney’s office in Washington Thursday morning, after he was accused of causing “profits of approximately $41 million to be earned” between February 2010 and February 2012 by conspiring with others to bribe Basquez, according to court documents.
According to the complaint, Basquez authorized a contract to do cleaning work on a government facility in Venezuela between 2009 and 2011. Basquez agreed to pay $1.5 million to Hekemian in exchange for completing the work. The original contract was worth only $550,000, according to court documents.
To bypass payment to Hekemian, Basquez directed Hekemian to send $150,000 directly to Saab, through a New York bank account in the name of an entity called Cantawaris, according to the complaint. The $150,000 was divided between Saab, his security guard, a presidential security guard and other close Saab associates, according to the complaint.
According to court documents, in August 2012, investigators attempted to interview Basquez, who made arrangements to meet with Saab, the complaint said. But Basquez refused to give a statement and refused to be interviewed by officials, according to the complaint.
After investigators went to Basquez’s home to question him, a man identified as Saab opened the door and walked outside and, after authorities identified themselves, forced his way in and said he was the owner of the home, according to the complaint.
Authorities said Basquez told them Saab had run off the scene but that the man came back inside, put Basquez in a chair and then, one by one, asked Basquez to sign blank power of attorney documents. The documents included agreements in which Saab instructed Basquez to spend some of the money and then write himself checks, according to the complaint.
A DEA agent told Basquez that one of the warrants was not being served until after the scheduled start of the interview, but according to the complaint, Basquez insisted he had not signed any documents and said he was not going to go to jail.
The FBI said in a statement Friday that Basquez will also be extradited to the United States.
According to its Facebook page, Hekemian has previously been accused of engaging in bribe payments to win contracts, including to officials in Venezuela. The company, however, disputes the allegations.