Roman Polanski aside, extraditions to US are on the upswing

Film director Roman Polanski may have avoided extradition stemming from a 1977 child sex case, but his case runs counter to the trend. Why more countries are handing over suspects to the US.

By , Staff writer

Filmmaker Roman Polanski may have beaten the US justice system by avoiding extradition stemming from a 1977 conviction for having sex with an underage girl. But these days, he's more the exception than the rule.

Suspects on the lam are more likely to be sent back to the US for trial or sentencing than was the case not so long ago. Part of the shift is attributed to treaty amendments, so that crimes in the US are accepted as crimes in other countries. Moreover, the political will abroad to prosecute drug smugglers has improved, resulting in more high-profile extraditions in recent years.

The Department of Justice says it does not have statistics on its extradition success rate. However, says spokeswoman Laura Sweeney of the Office of International Affairs, “We are increasingly successful in extradition requests as law enforcement around the world continue to work together in a more cohesive fashion.”

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Still, some nations, such as France, will not extradite individuals likely to face execution if convicted. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights held up the extradition to the US of four individuals detained in British prisons, citing the possibility that they could face life in prison – possibly a violation of Europe’s human rights charter.

Here are some relatively recent US successes on the extradition front:

Sex crimes

• Arts philanthropist Kenneth Schneider sent back in March to Philadelphia from Cyprus to face charges of traveling overseas for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor and transporting a person for criminal sexual conduct. He is pleading not guilty.

Samuel Silverman, a counselor who treated sexually abused children, was extradited in 2008 from Israel, where he fled after pleading guilty to sex abuse charges in Ashland, Ore. He was sentenced to a little over six years in jail.

Drug crimes

Zeev Rosenstein was extradited from Israel to the US in March 2006 for distributing more than 1 million Ecstasy pills. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years behind bars, which he is serving in Israel.

• In 2001, Mexico sent Arturo “Kitty” Paez, a member of the Arrelano Felix cartel, to the US. At the time, he was the highest-level drug trafficker ever extradited. He received a 30-year sentence after he helped US drug officials identify top drug smugglers.

• In 2001, Columbia extradited Fabio Ochoa for smuggling $5 billion worth of cocaine into the US. Mr. Ochoa was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Terrorism cases

• Last month, Syed Hashmi, a US citizen born in Pakistan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for aiding Al Qaeda, after being extradited from Britain in June 2006. Mr. Hashmi was a member of a radical Islamic organization.

Murder cases

• After being convicted in absentia for the murder of his girlfriend, Ira Einhorn fought extradition from France. In July 2001, however, he was sent back to the US, where he received a new trial. He was convicted in October 2002 and is currently serving a life sentence.

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