January 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Island Offers Criminals A Haven From Extradition For $10 Million Citizenship Fee Guarantees Immunity From Prosecution

Richard Keil Associated Press
 

A tiny Indian Ocean island nation has attracted the attention of law enforcement officials in the United States and Europe after passing a law guaranteeing to protect from extradition anyone willing to pay a $10 million citizenship fee.

The Republic of the Seychelles, with a population of 73,000, enacted the law in November as “part of a package of investment incentives proposed to enhance … serious private investment in Seychelles,” according to a memorandum on the law published by the Seychelles government.

The legislation stipulates that in exchange for the $10 million investment, the donor is granted “immunity from prosecution for all criminal proceedings whatsoever” - meaning they could not be extradited to any foreign country for trial there.

The sweeping legislation has quickly attracted the attention of law enforcement officials in the United States, Britain and France, spawning fears that, as one official put it, the law will create “a potential safe haven for wealthy criminals.”

The only exception to this kind of protection, according to the bill, involves crimes of “violence and drug trafficking in Seychelles.”

According to the bill, these far-reaching protections can be revoked only by a referendum supported by 60 percent of the nation’s voters and subsequent approval of two-thirds of the Seychelles national assembly.

In addition, any Seychelles official who helps bring in a $10 million investor is also granted immunity from prosecution for any sort of crime anywhere in the world.

“You don’t want criminals renting a government anywhere,” said Jonathan M. Winer, deputy assistant secretary of state for law enforcement and crime. “This kind of law is bad not only for the Seychelles, but the entire international community.”

“We have some real concerns about this legislation, and we and other nations are making known our feelings,” said another State Department official. “We certainly do not want to see this economic development bill used to promote a safe haven for criminals.”

And one U.S. law enforcement official, citing intelligence reports, said that four men suspected of extensive criminal activities in Europe have already obtained citizenship in the Seychelles.


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