Politics

Top 5 intriguing extradition cases

Bad news for Julian Assange: the WikiLeaks founder lost his appeal today against extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges.  Much of the case so far has been a back and forth between the lawyers in Sweden and Assange, who claims that the case is politically motivated.

The controversy from both sides and the international community's willingness to comment had the GlobalPost thinking about other intriguing extradition cases in recent years.

Below are GlobalPost's top five most interesting cases.

More: Assange loses extradition appeal

1. BOBBY VESCO

Exactly how much did financier Bobby Vesco steal in the 1970s? Estimates run to more than $224 million, or about $1 billion today, the Guardian reports. It was the biggest financial fraud in history at the time.

He fled the US in 1973 after the US Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into his company, International Controls Corporation. He was wanted for securities fraud, drug trafficking and political bribery, according to The New York Times.

But Vesco’s legend only grew after he left the US. Thanks to expensive payoffs in high places and living in countries with no extradition laws, Vesco managed to evade extradition to the US for 35 years.

Vesco fled first to the Bahamas and then to Costa Rica, where he poured some $60 million into the country’s economy.

“I wish more Vescos would come to Costa Rica — we need them,” said President Jose Figueres when questioned about the conman, according to The New York Times.

Figueres’ comment was made before Vesco was kicked out of the country in 1978 because of his plans to set up a machine gun factory.

He tried to buy half of the island of Barbuda around 1981 to create “the Principality of the Sovereign Order of New Aragon,” according to The Economist. He had his own airplane, the Silver Phyllis, which featured an on-board sauna and discotheque.

Vesco eventually ended up in Cuba, where he spent 13 years in prison for “defrauding investors” over his drug called “TX,” a supposed cure for AIDS and cancer.

He died November 23, 2007, one year before the international community heard the news.

2. ROMAN POLANSKI

Hollywood director Roman Polanski is still a free man after repeated attempts by the US to have him extradited back to the country to face sentencing for child sex charges dating back to the 1970s.

The Swiss arrested Polanski in 2009 as he arrived at the airport in Switzerland, according to The New York Times. But the Swiss justice ministry denied a request to extradite the director the following year, and authorities released him from house arrest.

CNN reports the Swiss denied extraditing Polanski because the US did not supply all the requested legal records and because Polanski had traveled to the country in “good faith” that he would not be arrested, according to CNN.

According to ABC News, Polanski eluded the legal system in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl “after plying her with champagne and Quaaludes at the home of actor Jack Nicholson.”

Polanski, now 76, has avoided the United States and countries with extradition agreements with the United States since 1978, while still maintaining a successful career as a Hollywood director.

3. CHARLES TAYLOR

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is currently on trial at The Hague facing 17 counts of violating international humanitarian law for allegedly backing brutal rebel forces in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Taylor’s rule of Liberia ended after six years in 2003, when he resigned from his post and sought political asylum in Nigeria, according to The News.

The extradition request was not the first of the kind for Taylor, however.

Taylor had fled to the United States in 1984 after the Liberian government accused him of embezzling more than $900,000 in government funds, according to PBS. He was detained in a Boston prison while the US government considered the extradition request from Liberia, but Taylor escaped the prison one year later.

According to PBS, it is believed that Taylor lived in Libya for the next four years, and received shelter and military training from Muammar Gaddafi.

After Taylor’s eventual return to Liberia and rise to power in 1997, Taylor allegedly began selling arms to rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds, BBC reports. The arms sales aided the rebels in continuing their fight against the Sierra Leone government by “conducting brutal sweeps through civilian areas, chopping off the arms, legs and noses of thousands of suspected government supporters, including women and children.”

He was indicted for war crimes in 2003 by a United Nation’s tribunal in Sierra Leone, and arrested in 2006 while trying to cross from Nigeria into Cameroon, according to The International News.

4. VIKTOR BOUT

One of the notorious of global arms traffickers from Russia was extradited to the United States in 2010 after being arrested in Thailand, and has been convicted on charges in the US — much to Russia’s dismay.

The jury reconvened today in the second day of deliberations in the trial of the infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.”

The accused Russian arms dealer was convicted on charges ranging from conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell arms to undercover federal agents, wire fraud and violating UN Security Council sanctions, according to the Telegraph.

Bout had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges stem from an American sting operation in Thailand where undercover US Drug Enforcement Agency agents posed as FARC rebels.

According to CNN, agents attempted to buy 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles and thousands of AK-47s and land mines, saying that they wanted “to kill Americans.”  Bout responded by saying he "was going to prepare everything the FARC needed."

Russia is furious over the extradition to the US and the trial. A Russian official sent a letter to the judge in Bout’s trial earlier this month warning that the case’s outcome “could affect the ongoing diplomatic ‘reset’ of relations” between the US and Russia, the Telegraph reports.

5. ADOLF EICHMANN

Adolf Eichmann was not exactly extradited from his hiding spot in Argentina to Israel, but the circumstances are notable because of the lessons taken away from his trial.

According to The New York Times, Eichmann, an SS official in charge of Jewish deportations in Europe during World War II, lived under the name Clemens in Argentina for 14 years before he was officially found in 1960. (CIA agents had known about his whereabouts two years before, but had not shared the information with Israel.)

He was tracked down by Israeli Mossad agents who abducted him and brought him back to Israel to stand trial, BBC reports. He was found guilty in 1961 and was hanged the following year, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The proceedings were widely covered by international media organizations, and it was there that Hannah Arendt famously put forth the idea of the “banality of evil” — the thought that great evils are executed by ordinary people just follow along the crowd instead of by a group of psychopaths.

BBC reports:

What makes his crimes so chilling is that they were not preordained by any evident pathology or inbuilt racism. Eichmann learned to hate, and to hate in a controlled and impersonal way…. In his mind there was little difference between setting up a petrol station or a death camp.

DISCUSSION: What do you think? Are there any other extradition cases you think are more interesting?

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