By Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) -Britain on Thursday sanctioned one of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's envoys, Alex Saab, in connection with an allegedly corrupt deal to obtain supplies for Maduro's government-run food subsidy programme.
Saab, a Colombian national, is currently detained in Cape Verde facing extradition to the United States, which accuses him of helping Maduro's government skirt U.S. sanctions imposed in 2019.
Britain said Saab had been sanctioned along with his associate Alvaro Pulido for exploiting two of Venezuela's public programmes which were set up to supply poor Venezuelans with affordable foodstuffs and housing.
"They benefited from improperly awarded contracts, where promised goods were delivered at highly inflated prices," the UK Foreign Office said in a statement https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-uk-sanctions-against-individuals-involved-in-corruption-around-the-world?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=693cd654-677b-48a9-8823-691a07b2cfb7&utm_content=immediately. "Their actions caused further suffering to already poverty stricken Venezuelans, for their own private enrichment."
Saab's lawyers could not immediately be contacted but have previously called the U.S. charges "politically motivated."
Venezuela's foreign ministry responded in a statement that Britain was presenting itself as an "anti-corruption judge for the world, while acting as one of the main responsible parties for the theft of assets belonging to all Venezuelans."
That was a reference to the Bank of England's refusal to hand over nearly $1 billion in gold to Maduro's government due to a dispute over whether the gold should go to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who Britain recognises as Venezuela's legitimate president.
Saab was arrested last June in Cape Verde after Interpol issued a so-called red notice.
At the time of his arrest, Saab was en route to Iran to negotiate shipments of fuel and humanitarian supplies to Venezuela, his lawyers previously told Reuters. His plane had stopped in the archipelago nation off the coast of West Africa to refuel.
Also on Thursday Britain sanctioned Teodoro Obiang Mangue, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, for misappropriating millions of dollars which London said was spent on luxury mansions, private jets and a $275,000 glove worn by Michael Jackson.
(Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by William Maclean and Chris Reese)