Colombia to extradite an alleged drug trafficker to the US

March 18, 2013

UPI.com on March 14, 2013 released the following updated story:

“BOGOTA, March 14 (UPI) — The supreme court in Colombia approved the extradition of Diego Perez Henao to face charges in the United States for allegedly trafficking cocaine.

Henao, who is known by the name Diego Rastrojo, was arrested June 3 in Venezuela for his role as the military command of the drug trafficking organization Los Rastrojos, an offshoot of the now-defunct Norte del Valle Cartel, Colombia Reports said Wednesday.

Los Rastrojos allegedly has ties to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

Rastrojo will face charges in federal court in Florida for allegedly trafficking tons of cocaine into the United States, the website reported.

He is being investigated in Colombia for his alleged involvement in killings, forced disappearances and extortion.”

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Extradited FARC leader convicted in U.S. on drug charges

September 6, 2011

A Colombian man who federal authorities say was a leader of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was convicted in U.S. federal court Thursday of conspiring to import thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to prosecutors.

Ignacio Leal Garcia, who was extradited from Colombia to the United States in July 2010, wil be sentenced on November 17 and could get 10 years to life in prison, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “In connection with its request for extradition, the United States has assured the Government of Colombia that it will not seek a life sentence for Leal Garcia,” the release said.

Leal Garcia, 41, is one of five alleged FARC leaders extradited by the United States on the same federal indictment, and the other four defendants already have been convicted, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In the indictment and other court papers, prosecutors describe the FARC as being “a hierarchical organization comprised of twelve to eighteen thousand members” and as being a military-style organization responsible for production and shipment of more than half of the world’s supply of cocaine and nearly two-thirds of the cocaine imported into the United States.

Leal Garcia, who was captured in April 2009, was leader of a FARC section that controlled all cocaine production and trafficking in a 9,000-square-mile area near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, prosecutors said.

“To exercise this control, Leal Garcia organized regular meetings in the various municipalities … where he threatened death or exile for anyone who failed to cooperate with the FARC’s control of coca farming, cocaine production and cocaine trafficking in the region,” the release from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Leal Garcia supervised production and distribution of “thousands of tons of cocaine” intended for the U.S. market, the statement said, with profits from drug sales going to fund the FARC.

“Recognizing that the FARC could not survive without its cocaine revenue, the indicted members of the FARC leadership directed its members to attack and disrupt coca eradication fumigation efforts,” the news release added. “FARC leaders also ordered FARC members to kidnap and murder United States citizens in an effort to dissuade the United States from continuing to contribute to coca eradication.”

The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. While severely weakened in recent years, the leftist guerrilla group has continued to carry out kidnappings and attack security forces in the South American nation.

The United States and the European Union consider the FARC a terrorist organization.

This article was published by CNN on September 2, 2011.

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Extradition from Colombia Still a Tool for Justice and Abuse

August 11, 2011

Extradition to stand trial in the U.S., long the biggest fear of Colombian drug traffickers, could now be a softer option, offering shorter jail terms and even impunity to criminals.

The first treaty governing extradition of Colombians to the U.S., most on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, came into force in 1982. It was the subject of fierce opposition from criminal interests, most notably Pablo Escobar, who tried to force the government to block the measure through targeted assassinations and bombing attacks. In 1991, due in part to this pressure, a new constitution banned the extradition of nationals, but this measure was overturned in 1997. Fewer than 400 Colombians were extradited in the first few years after extradition was reintroduced, but more than 1,100 were during President Alvaro Uribe’s time in power, between 2002 and 2010.

The prospect of extradition was hated and feared by Colombia’s criminals. In foreign jails, as well as being far from their families, they would be unable to exercise the kind of influence that they might in Colombia’s weak and corrupt justice system. But according to a report in Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, Colombian criminals are increasingly chosing not to fight extradition. One reason for this, according to the paper, is that the time spent opposing the process, often two years, does not count towards their sentence in the U.S., so the legal battle could simply lengthen the time they spend in prison. Another reason given by lawyers who spoke to El Tiempo is that, if prisoners choose not to fight extradition, they have a better chance of gaining concessions by cooperating with U.S. justice, as they can offer up-to-date knowledge of drug trafficking activities.

This kind of bargaining — providing intelligence about their associates and trafficking business — can allow high-level drug traffickers to gain major shortening of their sentences. This has garnered a fair amount of criticism in Colombia. In addition, paramilitary leaders who have committed serious human rights violations, responsible for ordering massacres and torture, face only drug trafficking charges in the U.S. It may be easier for paramilitaries to make beneficial deals with the U.S., as the authorities in that country would not face public pressure to punish these men in the same way that Colombian authorities would.

Most notorious was the surprise extradition of fourteen of the biggest paramilitary leaders, who had surrendered to Colombian justice via the peace accords made between the government and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC) in the mid 2000s. The stated reason was the commanders’ failure to cooperate fully with the peace process and end their drug trafficking activities.

Some have suggested that part of the reason for the mass extradition of the paramilitary leaders in 2008 was a desire on the part of authorities to stem the flood of details regarding AUC collaboration with politicians. Information about these ties, present on a much greater scale than had previously been realized, began spilling into the public domain when the paramilitary bosses began testifying about the politicians they had had dealings with, in what became known as the “parapolitics” scandal.

Indeed, the extradition did hinder the delivery of paramilitary testimony. There are reports in Colombian media that, two years on from the mass extradition, in May 2010, only six of the paramilitary bosses sent to the U.S. had testified before Colombia courts, as had been promised. There are various explanations for this: many of the jailed warlords feared for their families in Colombia, saying that their relatives had not been given the protection they were promised, and could suffer revenge attacks if the boss revealed information about his criminal dealings.

A report by Berkeley University in 2010 argued that extradition had granted impunity to many paramilitary leaders. In at least seven cases the records of these men have been sealed, so that there is no way of knowing where they are or even if they are still in prison. This means that Colombian justice does not have access to these men, who will not then testify about the horrendous crimes they committed in their home country. For many who lost relatives to the paramilitary atrocities, this means they may never know what exactly happened to their relatives, or where their bodies were dumped afterwards.

In a recent interview with El Tiempo, police chief General Oscar Naranjo defended the process of extradition, denying that it offered impunity to criminals. He said that Colombian authorities expected the U.S. to begin sharing more information on the whereabouts of extradited criminals, and on any information that they handed over. According to Naranjo, extradition is a vital weapon against crime, as it breaks the ties between imprisoned criminal bosses and their organizations, and stops them running their operations from jail. His argument is backed by many incidences of criminal bosses continuing to exert power after being imprisoned in Colombia. One clear example is that of Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna,” who was Medellin’s biggest criminal leader for many years. He continued to run the city’s underworld after his arrest in 2005, and it was only when he was sent to the U.S. in 2008 that a succession crisis kicked off in his group, the Oficina de Envigado.

The question now is how useful extradition remains as a judicial tool in Colombia, with some signs that it is increasingly employed for political ends. A clear example is the case of Walid Makled, a confessed drug trafficker who was captured in Colombia in 2010. Both Venezuela and the U.S. requested his extradition, but after some months of delay Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos plumped for Venezuela. Santos’ government has given various explanations for this decision, including that Venezuela handed their request in first. But it seems likely that Bogota judged it more politically expedient to build ties with their neighbor, in the hopes of gaining further cooperation in rebuilding trade ties and security cooperation fractured under the watch of former President Alvaro Uribe. Given the growing presence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations on Colombian soil, Colombia’s recently-negotiated extradition treaty with that country raises the possibility of more cases like Makled’s in the future, where the government’s loyalties may be divided.

Extradition has proven helpful in Colombia when employed to cut off criminal warlords from their organizations. But as indicated by the sealing of paramilitary testimony in the U.S., extradition has also served to undermine Colombia’s long and difficult reconciliation process. In many ways, especially when it comes to the victims of the AUC’s human rights crimes, extradition has obstructed justice rather than ensured it.

This article was written by Hannah Stone and published by InSightCrime on August 10, 2011.

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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