(Bloomberg) -- A Colombian businessman and close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency informant for almost a year before he was indicted in Florida on money-laundering charges in 2019, unsealed court records show.

Alex Saab, arrested in Cape Verde and extradited to the U.S. last year, agreed to work as a “cooperating source” with the DEA in June 2018, following several meetings between U.S. agents and Saab’s lawyers. Saab disclosed information about bribes paid to Venezuelan officials and forfeited more than $10 million in profits from his illicit activities, records show. 

“Alex Saab would like to stress that the release of the document, at the request of the Department of Justice, is no more than an attempt to harm the interests of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to try to weaken the strength of the relationship between Alex Saab and Venezuela and further evidences the weakness of the criminal charges made against him,” his lawyer, David B. Rivkin Jr., said in an emailed statement.

Saab’s cooperation with U.S. authorities was first reported by the Associated Press. 

The agreement between Saab and the DEA was breached after the businessman failed to meet a deadline to surrender in May 2019 to U.S. authorities in Florida, where he is being held before trial. He was indicted two months later.

U.S. Banks

Saab, 50, faces as long as 20 years in prison if found guilty. American authorities accused him of paying bribes to Venezuelan government officials in connection with contracts for a low-income housing project in the country, and then laundering the proceeds using bank accounts in Florida. 

Saab, who pleaded not guilty, has previously denied cooperation with the U.S. against the interests of Venezuela. 

“Mr. Saab states in the strongest possible terms that any alleged engagement which took place with the Department of Justice and various law enforcement officials, was undertaken with the full knowledge and support of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” his lawyer said.

According to the unsealed filing, American authorities said last year that disclosing his cooperation could endanger Saab or his family.

The Venezuelan government has repeatedly urged the release of Saab and appointed him as a member of the delegation that was leading political negotiation efforts with the country’s opposition in Mexico city. The talks came to halt after Saab was extradited to the U.S. in October 2021.

The case is USA v. Alex Saab Moran, 19-cr-20450, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.