He was flying by private jet from Venezuela on a mission for the government of President Nicolás Maduro, but businessman and fixer Alex Saab never got further than the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa.
When his plane stopped to refuel, local police arrested him on a warrant from the US, where he is wanted on suspicion of money laundering and is under sanctions for his links to Mr Maduro. Mr Saab, the authoritarian leader’s main dealmaker, is now at the centre of a tug of war between Washington and Caracas.
Washington wants him to face justice in the US and is preparing an extradition request for the Cape Verdean authorities, according to people briefed on the matter. The Department of Justice has declined to comment. Mr Maduro’s government says the Colombian-born Mr Saab has diplomatic immunity and was on a humanitarian mission to secure food for the poor and medical equipment to combat coronavirus.