Alleged Guatemala Traffickers Exploit Legal Tool to Fight Extradition

February 7, 2012

InSightCrime.org on February 7, 2012 released the following:

“Written by Steven Dudley

A legal safeguard built into Guatemala’s justice system is being used to stall the extraditions to the United States of some of the country’s most notorious suspected drug traffickers.

The writ of amparo — which is something along the lines of an injunction in the United States, or “accion tutela” in Colombia — provides widespread “relief” or “protection” for the appellate who feels that a statute, law or government action is violating his rights under the country’s constitution.

The amparo is a broad measure that can also be used to reclaim rights as well, such as the right to obtain government-generated documents (equivalent to the Freedom of Information Act in the United States). As such, it is a sacred legal tool.

However, lawyers of some of Guatemala’s most notorious suspected organized crime figures are repeatedly employing the amparo in what appears to be an effort to indefinitely delay the extradition of their clients.

There at least nine high-profile suspects awaiting extradition who have used the measure.

1. Waldemar Lorenzana, alias “The Patriarch,” the long-time head of the Lorenzana clan, a diverse and powerful trafficking group that has been accused of working with both the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.

2. Elio Lorenzana (pictured above), the son of Waldemar, and a suspected trafficker in his father’s organization.

3. Juan Ortiz Lopez, alias “Chamale,” the Guatemalan contact for the Sinaloa Cartel in the San Marcos state along the Mexican border.

4. Mauro Salomon Ramirez, a top lieutenant for the Chamale organization.

5. Alma Lucrecia Hernandez, Salomon’s replacement after his arrest in 2010.

6. Edgar Leonel Estrada, arrested for importing large amounts of pseudoephedrine, the raw material for methamphetamine, for the Mexican criminal organization Familia Michoacana.

7. Victor Emilio Estrada Paredes, who worked closely with his half-brother Edgar.

8. Byron Linares, a long-time drug trafficker who was captured then released in the early 2000s, then recaptured; Linares allegedly has connections in Colombia and sells illegal drugs to the Sinaloa Cartel, among others.

9. Alfonso Portillo, Guatemala’s ex-president who is accused of embezzlement, and has been tied to a group of ex-military intelligence personnel that facilitates drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegal adoptions, and other criminal activities.

The frivolous nature of the amparos has US authorities wringing their hands. In one case, the suspect’s lawyer filed an amparo contending that the words “United States” was not specific enough language to know who the accuser was, and that it could be confused with “the United States of Mexico.”

Others have made references to conflicts of interest within the court system, as this account from elPeriodico illustrates, attempting to sideline judges they deem unfavorable.

The most common amparos challenge the constitutionality of extradition (for example, see pdf version of what Elio Lorenzana’s lawyers filed in 2011, following his capture).

Guatemala allows extradition for cases that have been resolved or in cases in which the suspect is not wanted for a crime in Guatemala. But only Portillo and Linares still faces charges in Guatemala. Once those are settled, their lawyers are likely to file more amparos.

In the case of Portillo, this may be futile. Guatemala’s former president Alvaro Colom, in one of his last big decisions as head of state, authorized the extradition of one of his longtime political rivals just months after the courts, in a shameful ruling, absolved Portillo, and two of his accomplices, of several charges.

The amparo has also been employed against other judicial bodies seeking to prosecute organized crime figures, most notably the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-sponsored project that assists judicial and police authorities in investigating high-profile crimes.

The legal tactics go beyond amparos. On February 1, the day a court was to decide Elio Lorenzana’s fate, his lawyers resigned, leaving him without a defense and leaving the court with little choice but to suspend the hearing.

Traffickers in other countries have employed amparos as well, most notably in Mexico and Venezuela, where high-profile figures have argued extradition violates the constitution and their rights under it.

Amparos in extradition cases are not new, and US Congress has discussed their use in public hearings in the past. They have long been filed if the accused can face longer or more harsh sentences in the United States for their crimes than under their own countries’ laws.

Some of the most significant Guatemalan traffickers, such as Otto Herrera and Mario Paredes, alias “El Gordo,” were captured in other countries, making their extraditions or deportations easier. Both Herrera and Paredes were tried and sentenced in the United States.

However, the Guatemala-based cases can take months or years, and US authorities have no option but to wait.”

————————————————————–

Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

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

————————————————————–

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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions 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.


Honduras congress OKs extradition of its citizens for drug, terrorism-related crimes

January 20, 2012

The Washington Post on January 19, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras’ congress has approved legislation to allow extradition of its citizens charged elsewhere with drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime.

Starting Feb. 1, the Central American nation will be able to sign extradition treaties with other countries, including the United States, which has sought the change.

Lawmakers agreed Thursday that Hondurans charged with high-level crimes can be prosecuted elsewhere. Honduras has barred extraditing its nationals since 1982.

The action comes four days after all 158 Peace Corps volunteers left Honduras because a wave of violence and other drug-related crimes posed a high risk for them. The U.S. is sending personnel to analyze security problems.”

————————————————————–

Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

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

————————————————————–

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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions 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.


How Colombia is busting drug cartels

January 18, 2012

CNN on January 18, 2012 released the following:

“By William C. Rempel, Special to CNN

(CNN) — Gruesome and seemingly endless accounts of violence in Mexico have obscured one notable bright spot in Latin America’s high-stakes struggle with powerful drug gangs. In Colombia, once home to the world’s biggest cocaine cartels, new crime organizations are being picked apart with silent efficiency — aided by Bogota’s enthusiastic embrace of extradition.

In recent years, more than 1,300 of Colombia’s top crime bosses and their most dangerous enforcers have been sent north to face trafficking charges in the United States, a dramatic turnabout from the 1990s when extradition was outlawed under coercive pressure from the Medellin and Cali cartels.

Traffickers who might have continued to operate their drug organizations from luxury prison cells near their Colombian homes find themselves serving extended terms far away in U.S. penitentiaries without wall-to-wall carpets, big-screen TVs or easy phone access. Many offer to become witnesses hoping to reduce their sentences.

The result has been a steady erosion of organized crime’s capabilities in Colombia — a lesson for Mexico and other countries in the region threatened by drug gangs. Mexico’s historic reluctance to extradite its citizens to the United States should be reassessed in the face of Colombia’s success.

The beauty of extradition as practiced by Colombia is not its power to stop drug smuggling. There is scant evidence it has had much direct effect in that regard. But it continues to splinter the leadership of trafficking gangs, keeping them in a perpetual state of rebuilding. In short, extradition disorganizes organized crime.

And that’s what makes it such a winning strategy in a country once thoroughly compromised by cartel threats and bribes. In those days, barely 20 years ago, the Medellin and Cali cartels vied for power with the Bogota government that too often seemed to be a hostage to criminal forces. Extradition became the prize they fought over.

Pablo Escobar, once the most feared thug in the drug world, was so afraid of being carted off for trial in Florida or Texas or New York that he demanded an end to extradition. He famously insisted that he preferred “the grave in Colombia” to a prison cell in the States. But when his demands were unheeded, Escobar launched a terror campaign of political assassination, socialite kidnappings, and deadly bombings.

While Escobar went to war, rival Cali cartel bosses went to the bank. They spread favors of cash, women and Caribbean vacations to any and all receptive politicians. Democracy was no match for the combined forces of corruption and intimidation. Colombia capitulated to the drug kings and let cartel lawyers rewrite portions of the national constitution to outlaw extradition.

It was banned for more than six years until restored in December 1997. More recently, its use soared as part of former President Alvaro Uribe’s campaign to disarm and demobilize narco-trafficking paramilitary groups. And he put extradition processing on a fast track after discovering that imprisoned gangsters were still running criminal enterprises from their Colombian jails.

Colombia remains highly motivated today by fear of a return to the bad old days when criminal demands trumped national interests. And its success has been noticed. Mexico is showing more willingness to extradite Mexican nationals accused of major trafficking offenses in the U.S., but its numbers are small compared with Colombia’s.

About a dozen Mexican drug bosses are in various stages of extradition, a cumbersome and often frustrating process that can take two to five years. U.S. authorities complain that, among other things, Mexico requires excessive documentation before approving extradition applications — notably the identities of certain key witnesses that can jeopardize their safety.

Some of the lingering reluctance comes from national pride, from the conviction that Mexico should and can take care of its own crime problems. To that end, Mexican anti-narcotics units have been beefed up and security at its federal prisons improved. But that’s not enough.

“There’s no prison anywhere in Mexico or Colombia that puts these guys out of business like U.S. prisons,” says one American law enforcement official.

There is a cost, of course. Federal prosecutions and extended incarcerations are expensive. Yet, what are the alternatives? When Colombia was overrun by cartels, the U.S. poured in a billion dollars of aid to help a friend and ally fight back. Recently, Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested sending U.S. troops to help Mexico, an option loaded with political as well as financial costs. It only underscores the point: Extradition is a bargain.

It’s also the most potent weapon against organized crime available in the region. Mexico and its Central American neighbors should embrace it with Colombian enthusiasm.”

————————————————————–

Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

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

————————————————————–

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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions 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.


US Seeking Extradition from Paraguay for Suspected Hezbollah Financier

June 22, 2010

The United States has asked Paraguay to extradite a Lebanese national suspected of funneling money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah from the South American nation, court sources said Wednesday.

Mussa Ali Hamdan, 38, was arrested Tuesday in Ciudad del Este, part of the Triple Frontier, a region the United States has repeatedly cited as being exploited by militant groups that “finance terrorist activities.”

Hamdan is accused of 31 crimes, according to Interpol. The US extradition request cites his alleged material support for Hezbollah “including falsified documents.”

The suspect is also accused of counterfeiting US currency and conspiracy to commit passport fraud, according to the request.

Hamdan appeared Wednesday before Judge Hugo Sosa Pasmor to confirm his identity as part of an extradition request, and then was transferred to Asuncion’s Tacumbu penitentiary.

Local media, citing local security officials, have said Hamdan was financing Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel and is blacklisted as a terror group by Washington.

A cosmopolitan area and significant tourist spot, the Triple Frontier is also considered a major spot for smuggling and other organized crime. Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina however deny their shared region is a hotbed for terror financing.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

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.

Bookmark and Share