BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Extraditing a criminal from Argentina just got easier.
On Aug. 22, the country signed an extradition treaty with Bolivia, replacing an agreement that dated to the 19th century.
On July 18, Argentina signed a similar treaty with Colombia.
The treaties are important steps in the fight against the drug trade, human trafficking and other transnational crimes. Both documents must be ratified by the Argentine Congress before taking effect.
“The new agreements incorporate modern trends and make the extradition procedures as smooth as possible, while respecting the rights and guarantees of the people,” said Diego Solernó, the coordinator of International Cooperation on Criminal Matters for Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion.
Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner stressed the importance of the new agreement with Colombia during her visit to Bogotá on July 18.
“The lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries had negative legal consequences that will fortunately be corrected,” Fernández de Kirchner said during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The new extradition treaty with Bolivia replaces the International Criminal Law Treaty of 1899, which had become obsolete.
“The old treaty is very vague regarding timelines and preventive arrests. The vocabulary is very old and difficult to interpret,” said Solernó, who was a member of Argentina’s negotiating team.
Meanwhile, the extradition treaty with Colombia corrects shortcomings in the Inter-American Convention on Extradition of 1933, which is still in effect with that country.
The convention did not provide for certain situations that could arise in the case of an extradition, such as the consent of the person who will be extradited, Solernó added.
“With the new treaty, if the person wants to be extradited, the process must be expedited in accordance with the laws of each country,” he said.
Solernó added it is common for individuals to request extradition to their home country so they’ll be closer to their family and make the process faster.
The new agreements also provide for temporary transfers – a solution for cases in which an individual has cases pending in the requesting country.
At the moment, Colombian drug traffickers arrested and convicted in Argentina can’t be extradited until completing their sentences.
“With temporary extradition, the individual is temporarily transferred to the requesting country so that they can be put on trial, returning later to continue with the cases that are pending here,” Solernó said. “When they finish serving their sentence in Argentina, they are transferred back to the requesting country.”
This is particularly important in dealing with transnational organized crime groups, where defendants often face charges in numerous countries.
“The absence of this clause can prevent extradition or lead to long delays,” Solernó pointed out.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) approves the countries’ initiative.
“The UNODC will always applaud any effort made by countries, bilaterally or multilaterally, to improve and increase the speed at which cases involving international legal cooperation are handled, which is key to controlling organized crime,” said Rafael Franzini, a representative from the Liaison and Partnership Office of the UNODC in Brazil. “One of the characteristics of organized crime is the transnational nature of their actions, which requires a greater willingness by countries to assist one another with extraditions and other forms of penal assistance.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Anti-Drug Association of Argentina, Claudio Izaguirre, said the treaties are a step in the right direction.
“This type of agreement is important, but it won’t have the intended effect if Argentina doesn’t begin to take a timely stand against the drug trade,” Izaguirre said.
He said Argentina must do more to target drug traffickers who enter the country and use it as a springboard to transport cocaine to Europe.
“Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel, for example, currently dominates the drug trade from the island of Cerrito, in Argentina’s Chaco province, to the province of Santa Fe,” Izaguirre said.
‘Gran Hermano’ and ‘Mi Sangre’
“Drug-related cases represent approximately half of the offers and requests for criminal legal cooperation received and issued by Argentina,” Solernó said. “Given that drug-trafficking cases generally involve other countries, there’s a lot of information exchanged regarding the ongoing trials in each of the countries.”
When investigating a drug gang that’s operating in Buenos Aires, for example, Colombian officials may request information from Argentina regarding the organization, its assets and its companies so they can investigate money-laundering issues.
Cooperation among Argentina, Colombia and the United States was instrumental in the apprehension of alleged Colombian narco-trafficker Ignacio Álvarez Meyendorff, who was arrested in Argentina in 2011 and extradited to the U.S. in July 2013.
Meyendorff, who goes by the alias “Gran Hermano” and had been in Argentina since 2005, was arrested by the Airport Security Police (PSA) in 2011 upon his return from a trip to Tahiti. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) accuses him of financing an organization that sent at least eight tons of cocaine to the U.S. in submarines.
Another “big fish” whose extradition is being requested by the U.S. is Henry de Jesús López Londoño, known as “Mi Sangre.” He was arrested in the Argentine municipality of Pilar in the province of Buenos Aires.
Londoño is wanted by the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Florida for allegedly being involved in the Colombian drug trade. Colombian authorities have stated Londoño is the largest supplier of narcotics to Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. Argentine Public Safety Secretary Sergio Berni called him the “world’s most dangerous drug trafficker.”
Of the 96 extradition requests made by Argentina in 2012, the majority went to Paraguay (23), followed by Uruguay (15), Peru (10), Chile and Spain (eight each), according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship.
Meanwhile, of the 112 extradition requests that Argentina received, the majority came from Peru (26), followed by Paraguay (20), Chile and Spain (12 each) and Uruguay (eight).