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Graffiti message in Caracas demands freedom for Alex Saab | Photo: EFE / Rayner Peña R

A US federal judge has scheduled the January 3 trial of Colombian-Venezuelan businessman Alex Saab, alleged figurehead of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who is accused by a Miami court of money laundering.

Judge Robert N. Scola Jr., who will be responsible for the trial, has said it will take two weeks and will be conducted by a jury. The magistrate also called a preliminary hearing with the parties involved for December 28.

On the 15th, Saab, 49, pleaded not guilty before Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes, in the same court.

Earlier this month, Scola dismissed seven money laundering charges against the accused, who was extradited from Cape Verde on October 16.

The lowering of charges was part of the extradition deal with the Cape Verdean government, so if Saab is found guilty the sentence will not exceed what he would have received in the African country.

Saab could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty on that count by the Miami court, but the sentence could be reduced if he makes a deal with the prosecution, which usually involves denounce the accomplices.