I am pleased to present a guest blog on one of our favourite topics -- extradition -- by prominent New York criminal defence and extradition lawyer Arkady Bukh. In it he surveys a number of interesting, prominent and sometimes infamous American extradition cases. I am grateful to him for agreeing to have this piece included here.
As per usual, all content and opinions expressed herein are solely the responsibility of Mr. Bukh, and their appearance on this blog does not imply agreement or ratification.
Six High-Profile Extraditions to the US
What do Croatia, Kazakhstan, Dubai, Western Sahara and Bhutan have in common?
According to Daily Finance, an online website for investors, these five countries are the best countries in which to hide. With an affordable cost of living and no extradition treaty with the United States, a person could stay forever with very little expense.
An extradition is the official process where one country transfers a suspected, or convicted, criminal to another country. Extradition is an age-old tool which dates back to at least the 1300s, BC, when Ramses II of Egypt negotiated an extradition treaty with Hattusili III, a Hittite King.
Over the years, hundreds of people have been extradited to stand trial. Many of those have been sent to America. Determining “high-profile” extraditions can be subjective, but infamous ones are not.
Some of the more notorious suspects extradited to America in the past twenty years are:
Viktor Bout — 2010
A Russian citizen, Bout was arrested in 2008 in Thailand and extradited in 2010 to stand trial in the U.S. Bout was accused of planning on smuggling munitions and arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for use against American forces. He was convicted in November, 2011 in a Manhattan federal court and sentenced in April 2012 to 25 years in prison. The arms merchant is now incarcerated at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. With all appeals exhausted, prisoner number 91641054 passes his time with a new hobby: salsa dancing.
Ira Einhorn - 2001
Known as the “Unicorn Killer”, Einhorn was convicted of the murder of a former girlfriend, Holly Maddux. When police found Maddux’s body in a closet in the apartment she had shared with Einhorn, they arrested him. Released when bail was paid by a wealthy Canadian supporter, Barbara Bronfman, Einhorn hung around Philadelphia until days before his trial.
In 1981, Einhorn skipped bail and took off to Europe where he lived for the next 17 years.
Einhorn had been a self-proclaimed environmental activist. He was well-known as Philadelphia’s head hippie and was a prominent leader of the 1960s and 70s ecological groups.
Einhorn, German for “one horn” nicknamed himself “Unicorn,” and presented himself to Philadelphia as a tie-dye-wearing guru who advocated flower power, peace and free love at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a student.
Einhorn was eventually tracked down and arrested in Champagne-Mouton, France where he had been using the name “Eugene Mallon.” Einhorn/Mallon’s extradition to the United States was more complex than anyone originally thought. The extradition treaty between France and America allows for either country to refuse extradition under certain circumstances. Einhorn’s attorney claimed that the possibility of Einhorn receiving the death penalty was justification enough for France to keep him.
In 2001, Einhorn was finally extradited to the United States where he was sentenced to a life term without the possibility of parole.
Richard O’Dwyer - Resolved in 2012
Although never carried through, O’Dwyer’s extradition wasn’t for lack of effort by the United States and the United Kingdom.
The twenty-six year old computer programmer from Britain created the website, TVShack.net while a student at Sheffield Hallam. O’Dwyer’s website didn’t host any media. American authorities claimed it indexed links to media in much the same manner as Google. The Southern District Court in New York charged O’Dwyer with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and O’Dwyer’s attorneys fought his extradition.
When American authorities first requested O’Dwyer’s extradition in May, 2011, O’Dwyer spent a single night in Wandsworth prison before being released on bail.
In August, 2012, a memo from the American organization, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was leaked. The memo detailed efforts by MPAA to recruit ghostwriters to write news stories and blog posts defaming O’Dwyer and supporting the interests of MPAA, which was to see O’Dwyer arrested and convicted.
When O’Dwyer appeared for a preliminary hearing in June, 2011, his lawyer argued that any criminal prosecution should be brought in the United Kingdom as TVShack had not been hosted on American servers. Regardless, the judge ruled that O’Dwyer could be extradited to the United States.
The Open Rights Group called the extradition request absurd and even The Guardian, Britain’s version of The New York Times, supported O’Dwyer’s position. In November, 2012, O’Dwyer agreed to a “deferred prosecution” where he would travel to the US voluntarily and be required to pay a small fine and sign an oath promising not to infringe copyright laws again.
O’Dwyer has never been convicted of any crime either in the US or UK.
Christopher Tappin - 2012
British businessman Christopher Tappin was convicted for selling weapon parts to Iran. In January, 2013, following a two-year extradition fight, the London businessman was sentenced in America to 33 months in prison.
In 2005, officials with an American government agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), opened a front company named Mercury Global Enterprises, or MGE. A business acquaintance of Tappin approached MGE with the idea of buying surveillance equipment. He also asked about exporting other military hardware without the proper licenses. During these conversations, Tappin’s name was brought up as an exporter.
ICE maintained that between December 2005 and January 2007, Tappin attempted to purchase 50 Eagle-Picher batteries which are used as part of the electronics system of the Hawk, a surface-to-air missile deployed by Iran. In November 1985, 18 Hawk missiles had been shipped to Iran during the Reagan administration and it was these missiles for which the batteries were intended. Tappin maintained he thought they were car batteries.
A federal grand jury in Texas issued an arrest warrant for Tappin in 2007. Tappin lost his final appeal against extradition to America in January 2012. The following month, Tappin turned himself in to British authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport. The British officers handed Tappin off to US Marshals and he boarded a flight to El Paso.
Isabella Sankey, director of policy at Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties) pointed out that no British court had ever been given the opportunity to review and examine the evidence against Tappin.
In January 2013, Tappin was handed a 33-month sentence for arms dealing and fined $11,357.00. Between March and September 2013, Tappin was housed at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. On September 28, 2013, Tappin was returned to England where he began serving the remainder of his sentence at HM Wandsworth prison, about an hour’s drive from his home.
Tappin is scheduled to be released in November 2014.
NatWest Three - 2006
Also known as the “Enron Three,” Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew were all indicted in 2002 for wire fraud the perpetrated against their former employer, Greenwich NatWest. Following a high-profile fight in British courts, the three were extradited to the United States in 2006. A year later, each of the three pled guilty to a single count of wire fraud in a plea deal where the prosecution agreed to drop the other charges. The men were sentenced to three years and a month in prison. Initially they were incarcerated in America, but later transferred to prisons in UK. All were released in 2010.
In a convoluted financial deal with Enron’s CFO, Andrew Fastow, the men bought, sold and re-bought shares in a financial group owned and operated privately by Fastow. The three conspired with Fastow to convince their former employer, GNW, to purchase shares in the holding company; an action which left the three with $7.3 million to share.
When Enron imploded and investigators started going through the balance sheets, the NatWest three were not on the SEC’s radar. Only after Fastow’s computer was seized, and authorities found a little known offshore account, did investigators start to connect the three with fraudulent deals.
The three were arrested in Britain in April 2004 and US prosecutors began to pursue what they expected to be a routine extradition in June 2004. The three fought to stay in Britain. By September 2004, a British judge had ruled the extradition could proceed.
The NatWest Three responded by suing England’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) seeking to force prosecution in the UK. A successful suit would allow the UK to take precedence over any US investigation.
Bermingham told the press, “I can’t imagine anyone has ever taken the SFO to court for NOT prosecuting.”
An island vacation led to anything but sandy shores and tropical breezes for a hacker from Russia. Aleksandr Panin traveled to the Dominican Republic for vacation where Dominican police detained him. Not concerning themselves with the need for a formal extradition proceeding, they put him on an airplane to the state of Georgia. There, in Atlanta, Panin was greeted by US Federal agents who arrested him.
The arrest angered the Russian government. The Russian foreign-affairs ministry issued a warning to Russian citizens saying that the US had abducted Russians, and that anyone who suspected there may be pending cases against them in the US avoid traveling overseas. Panin appointed the author of this post as his New York defence counsel.
When Panin got to court, he admitted to writing a virus known as “SpyEye,” which first made its appearance in 2009. The virus would copy credentials for banking websites as well as logging keystrokes on a user’s computer. Panin sold the virus to others on Internet forums for $1000 to $8500. One SpyEye user claims to have made over $3.1 million in six months from using the program. The FBI claims that approximately 10,000 financial accounts were affected.