Prominent Extradition Cases in Thailand - Snaring Minor Offenders to Big-Time Crooks
By John Le Fevre
24 March 2011
Thai Authorities are Increasingly Collaborating with Foreign Law Enforcement Agencies
For many years Thailand’s warm climate, relatively low cost of living and under resourced law enforcement agencies meant many criminals on the run were able to fly under the radar, avoiding detection, apprehension and return to countries they were wanted in.
In recent years the ability to disappear in Thailand has become considerably more difficult, with foreign governments and agencies basing law enforcement agents in country, often in a skills exchange program with the RTP or at the International Law Enforcement Academy, Bangkok (ILEA- Bangkok).
Though international law enforcement and intelligence agencies will not reveal the number of agents present in Thailand, a reliable source with close contacts in the Thailand intelligence community claims there are about 40 full-time USDEA agents based in Bangkok, some 20 FBI agents and "about 15 CIA operatives with a massive embedded network, including close links to very senior Thai military officers".
Most other nations, including the UK, Germany, France and Israel also have law enforcement and intelligence officers based in Thailand, though no approximations of the numbers is available.
The Bout case was not the first where USDEA officials and RTP have cooperated in the arrest and extradition of suspects and fugitives in Thailand and there are numerous examples of the willingness of Thai authorities to work with law enforcement officials from other countries to rid the kingdom of undesirable foreigners.
Trade in Steroids and Money Laundering: The Extradition of Richard Crawley and Ashley Vincent Livingston
In a less publicized case than that involving Mr. Bout, two British nationals, Edwin Richard Crawley and Ashley Vincent Livingston (aka Redicat), were detained by the RTP working with the USDEA in March 2008 on charges of trading in anabolic steroids and money laundering.
It was alleged Mr. Crawley and Livingston ordered the steroids from China, via the internet, and then on-sold them to customers in the USA and Europe. It was further alleged that the pair had built a considerable fortune as a result of their activities, acquiring Bt20 million (about $US631,000 at 2008 exchange rates) in assets in the Thailand eastern seaboard city of Pattaya between 1999 and their arrest in 2008.
The two were detained by Thai police acting in accordance with a request made by the USDEA under a Mutual Legal and Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the United States and Thailand.8
MLATs include the power to summon witnesses, to compel the production of documents and other real evidence, to issue search warrants, and to serve process.
Generally, the remedies offered under an MLAT are only available to the prosecutors, with the defense having to proceed with the methods of obtaining evidence in criminal matters under the laws of the host country, which usually involve letters rogatory – a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance, such as service of process and taking of evidence.9
Livingston and Mr. Crawley were initially charged by Thai authorities with illegally importing and selling medicines, avoiding excise duty, and transporting forbidden substances out of the kingdom, while contemporaneously, the US sought their extradition.
It should be noted that in Thailand anabolic steroids are covered by the food and drug laws, with the maximum penalty for violation being a jail sentence, as opposed to a maximum penalty under the Narcotics Act of death, while in the US anabolic steroids have been classified as a felony drug offense in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), since February 27, 1991.10
Both men subsequently appeared before a Thai court and were ordered to be extradited to the US in late 2009, though Mr. Crawley appealed the extradition order, before rescinding his objection during an Appeals Court hearing, in December, 2010. 11
Following his appearance in a US Court in May 2010, a plea bargain saw Livingston sentenced to 24-months in prison on one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids and one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.12
He subsequently claimed to have been "tortured" during his eight-months waiting deportation in Thailand, though the RTP say he cooperated fully, providing them with extensive information about his customers and business associates, resulting in a number of follow-up raids and arrests by the RTP.13
It should be noted that because Mr. Crawley and Livingston were initially charged with having committed offences in Thailand and were detained on those charges while the extradition application by the US government ran a parallel course, the RTP was perfectly within its rights to question the two regarding their activities in the kingdom.
Thailand’s Transnational Crime Data Center Expands
The opening of Thailand's second Transnational Crime Data Center (TNCDC) at the Jomtien office of the Chonburi Immigration Bureau late last year means that people wanted for offences in other countries are increasingly likely to be apprehended and extradited if they choose to hide-out in Pattaya.
The TNCDC's "Polis" computer system matches data, including photos, descriptions, known associates and habits, of people for who arrest warrants have been issued by foreign countries, with data being fed into its computer system by foreign law enforcement agencies, Bangkok based embassies and Thai courts.
The sophisticated Polis system integrates with data collected on the "IM" system, used by Thailand immigration for data collection, visa extensions, 24-hour accommodation reporting, and arrest warrants, as well as the "IMM" system used for monitoring people blacklisted from entry, arrival and departure dates, and a globally-linked passport checking facility.
At its official opening last December, Police General Wuthi Puawes, the head of the Thailand immigration police and the security advisor, Special Affairs Department of the RTP, said Chonburi Immigration Bureau was chosen for the center because "it is one of the busiest in the country", not because of any perception there are more wanted foreigners in Pattaya than anywhere else.14
The system now holds details on more than 10,000 people wanted for crimes such as pedophilia, extortion, investment fraud, and money laundering and since the TNCDC computer system was installed last May it has been responsible for identifying dozens of wanted people, leading to their arrest, detention and extradition, with several others detained over international warrants still before the courts where they are challenging the validity of the extradition proceedings.
The Arrest of George Georgiou
One such case is that of suspected jewel thief George Georgiou, arrested in Pattaya in October 2010, accused of the smash-and-grab theft of a $1 million ring from an upscale jewelry store in Melbourne, Australia.
Mr. Georgiou protested his innocence and confidence in being found innocent at trial, only to set out and try to delay his extradition to Australia, boasting he could delay the extradition for a year, arguing the extradition request was flawed due to the lack of an Extradition Treaty between Australia and Thailand.15
Australia relies on an extradition treaty signed between Thailand and Britain back in the early 1900s, which it uses as the governing legal framework for extradition between it and Thailand.16
Though extraditions between the two countries have occurred in the past, the fact that the inherited British-Thailand extradition treaty gives either country an absolute discretion to refuse extradition of nationals, is a clause currently being put to the test in the Thai courts.