Red Notice  Law Journal

Red Notice Law Journal

Red Notices, International Extradition, and Perspective

Toward ending dictators’ abuse of INTERPOL’s tools: Fair Trials brings “Demonizing Dissidents” to D.C.

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Politically Based Red Notices, Red Notice Challenges

I’m having the very pleasant experience of feeling a bit of fall weather this weekend, not because Miami has become unseasonably cool, but because I am in Washington, D.C. to attend an event hosted by Fair Trials, International.

Fair Trials has organized “Demonizing Dissidents” to highlight the abuse of INTERPOL by dictatorships that persecute journalists, peaceful political dissidents, and refugees.  The London-based organization has been consistent and relentless in its quest for INTERPOL reform, particularly with respect to politically based prosecutions and violations of individual human rights.

Given the United States’ status as one of the primary funders of INTERPOL, it is appropriate that efforts at reform are undertaken here, as well.  While some U.S. officials have made sporadic, individualized attempts to correct abuses of INTERPOL, there has yet to be a concerted, official effort at truly ensuring the protection of individual due process and human rights.  The U.S. has both a political and moral obligation to take concrete steps to accomplish these goals, and INTERPOL appears to be poised to continue its efforts to achieve transparency, accountability within its National Central Bureaus, and the enforcement of applicable law in every Red Notice case.

The event will provide an opportunity to witness not only the very real cost to individuals who have suffered from the abuse of INTERPOL’s tools, but also to understand the cost to INTERPOL’s credibility and to the United States’ credibility as a nation of law and order if real reform is not imminent.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL’s CCF- How plain and clear responses will reduce the workload and increase transparency

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Red Notice Challenges

Some of the best advice I ever received was from a professor who told my law school class to “knock off the legal mumbo-jumbo” and just speak plainly, so people can understand you.  When lawyers speak in legal-ese or in industry terms, the only people who really understand them are other lawyers, and other people in the industry being discussed.  The effect is that the person delivering the mumbo-jumbo is misunderstood, and perhaps, too, not trusted very much.  Sometimes, the responses issued by INTERPOL’s CCF ( the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, the body that reviews requests for correction or deletion of data in INTERPOL’s system) fall into the “mumbo-jumbo” trap.

Today, I received yet another example of the not-quite-clear language that sometimes appears in the CCF’s response letters.

The subject individual, like many others, inquired about or challenged his or her INTERPOL data, either alone or with a lawyer, and received a response.  The response, however, left more questions in place than answers.  The letter from the Commission stated that the information the individual was requesting “is no longer in Interpol’s files.”  That’s it.  The individual, naturally, was not quite sure if this means that the Red Notice has been cancelled and deleted, if he or she can now travel freely, if the various National Central Bureaus of Interpol have been advised of the deletion, or why the information was no longer in the files.

The individual’s questions are reasonable, and since the CCF found his or her initial request to be admissible, it is necessarily bound by its rules to provide that individual with access to his or her files within INTERPOL’s databases.  “Access” is only “access” if it is meaningful; anything less is a mere hint or clue that requires further investigation and further contact with the CCF. In order for the CCF’s responses to be meaningful, and to avoid the need for repeated requests for explanation and clarification, here are a few ideas for the CCF’s consideration when generating future correspondence:

  • Include a statement that explains the significance of the CCF’s actions or decision.  In the example provided above, the letter might state, “Your data is no longer in INTERPOL’s files, which means that there is no data about you in INTERPOL’s files that could be used by any INTERPOL member country towards your detention or extradition, or prosecution or sentencing in any case, as of this date.
  • Explain why there is “no data:”  “The data in your name was removed because a doubt was raised as to its compliance with INTERPOL’s rules regarding private business disputes.”  “The data in your name was removed because the CCF received confirmation that you have already served your sentence.”
  • When sending letter explaining that a subject’s request has been deemed admissible, and a decision will be rendered “in due course,” explain what “in due course” means.  If it means that a decision should issue within two months, say that.  If it will be two years, say it.  If their case is number 243 in the queue, say it.  Just let people know.

Past experience with the CCF shows that the Commission is readily capable of issuing clear, simple responses.  The CCF has done so both in publicized cases, like this recent example, or in this letter that I received for a client after seeking clarification about the CCF’s previous letter:

Please note that in 2012, upon the request of one of its member countries, the International Criminal Police Organization-INTERPOL published a Red Notice seeking the arrest with a view to extradition of Mr.  (name omitted for privacy- we’ll call him “X”), born on —–.

Please further note that in 2013, following a review of the case by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), and upon the CCF’s recommendations, the Red Notice has been cancelled and all the information relating to the afore-mentioned individual was deleted from INTERPOL’s database.

The cancellation of an INTEPOL Red Notice and its deletion from INTERPOL’s files means that it no longer exists as far as the Organization is concerned. Therefore, no INTERPOL member country should ever be able to use the afore-mentioned Red Notice as a basis to detain Mr. X.

This type of letter tells us the CCF means, and why it is important.  In a previous letter regarding that client, the CCF had explained the reason for its decision as well.  If the CCF could do this in every case, in a single letter, it would prevent repeated requests for clarification; provide meaningful access to Red Notice subjects; and move further toward accomplishing the CCF’s goal of transparency.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.




INTERPOL’s announcement in the cases of Rafat Ali Rizvi and Hesham al-Warraq

Posted in Uncategorized

Any time a lawyer is successful in his or her efforts to zealously represent a client, I feel an appreciation for the satisfaction that the lawyer must be experiencing.  Recently, though, I learned of an attorney’s success and I felt a sense of personal happiness for the attorney’s victory, though I had no involvement with the case at all.

Rutsel Silvestre Martha is an attorney in London who is the former General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs of INTERPOL.  He has written extensively on INTERPOL matters, and as such, has been one of my teachers.  Dr. Martha recently prevailed on two very difficult, protracted Red Notice cases before INTERPOL’s CCF.  Certainly, any INTERPOL case is an uphill battle, and any win is worthy of recognition.  The cases of Rafat Ali Rizvi and Hexham al-Warraq, however, were particularly challenging.  The results of the cases were published on INTERPOL’s website, and such publication is generally limited to cases that have been the subjects of extraordinary publicity or concern to INTERPOL or its member countries.

Congratulations to Dr. Martha and his co-counsel, Mr. George Burn, on their successful work on behalf of their clients.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


INTERPOL and the tax man

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Uncategorized

A reader recently sent in the following questions:

Can you tell me would the IRS issue a diffusion notice in a civil tax audit involving offshore banking? Would Interpol even accept a diffusion notice on a non criminal case? And if so what does that mean to a person travelling?

The reader rightly questions whether INTERPOL would become involved in a civil matter, and it would not.  INTERPOL exists primarily for the purpose of assisting its member countries in bringing criminal subjects to justice, and its rules require a minimum sentence for a crime to qualify for circulation in INTERPOL’s databases.  INTERPOL does also circulate notices regarding individuals who are subjects of interest to criminal investigations; missing persons; and unidentified bodies, but all notices contain crime-related information.

However, if a case has both a civil element and a legitimate criminal element, INTERPOL may become involved in the matter.  For instance, if a tax audit reveals evidence of tax evasion or tax fraud, it would be reasonable to expect that criminal charges may follow.  In that case, a Red Notice may be issued for a person who is believed to have fled the jurisdiction.

Regarding the reader’s question about travel: if a Red Notice is issued due to a pending criminal case, then detention and extradition become possible.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL, refugees, and Red Notices

Posted in Collateral Effects of Red Notices, INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Politically Based Red Notices

This May, INTERPOL announced its new policy on its treatment of Red Notice subjects with refugee status.  The policy is addressed in detail here by Fair Trials International.  Fair Trials and the Open Dialogue Foundation are among the organizations that have advocated for reform of INTERPOL’s policies regarding those individuals who have been granted refugee status, but who are also listed as wanted subjects in INTERPOL’s databases.

In May, INTERPOL had not yet publicized the manner in which its policy would be implemented.  Now, however, the organization has provided some level of detail as to how refugee cases will be processed.  For example, INTERPOL has provided the generally applicable guidelines indicating that the processing of Red Notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if:

  • the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed;
  • the notice or diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears prosecution;
  • the granting of the refugee status is not based on political grounds in relation to the requesting country.

INTERPOL advises that the objective of the new policy is

“to support member countries in preventing criminals from abusing refugee status, while providing adequate and effective safeguards to protect the rights of refugees, as guaranteed under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and other applicable conventions.”

Naturally, it will take time to see how the policy is implemented in practice, and it may be anticipated that the policy takes on nuances over time. For now, however, the implementation of the policy and the fact that there are guidelines in place for its use are both favorable facts for refugees who have been immobilized based on their status as Red Notice subjects.

Also, many thanks to Fair Trials and Open Dialogue for their continued efforts toward achieving due process for criminally accused individuals.  INTERPOL is also to be commended for its willingness to study this important issue and to take action to make changes where needed.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL’s CCF and the significance of Ex-Ukrainian president Yanukovych no longer appearing on Interpol’s website

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Politically Based Red Notices, Red Notice Challenges

INTERPOL has removed the Red Notice in the name of Ex-Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych from its website.    The removal of a name from INTERPOL’s online wanted pages is not indicative of a final decision, but it is significant.

In 2014, likely due to the public nature of the case, INTERPOL took the unusual step of publicizing the fact that it was reviewing the Ukrainian Red Notice request for Mr. Yanukovych.

Earlier this year, INTERPOL reportedly agreed to issue the Red Notice, based on charges of embezzling public funds. Mr. Yanukovych challenged the notice, and today it was announced that his name no longer appears on the online wanted list.  Mr. Yanukovych’s attorneys reportedly took the position that the Red Notice should be removed because the underlying criminal charges were part of a pattern of political persecution against him.

Mr. Yanukovych is no doubt encouraged by the report that Interpol suspended the Red Notice; removed the extract of the Red Notice showing Yanukovych as a “wanted person” from the Interpol website; and blocked access of Interpol member countries to Interpol data concerning him.  While a suspension is not a permanent removal, it is a good sign that the matter is being seriously considered by the CCF, and that it may be permanently deleted from INTERPOL’s files.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.


INTERPOL’s CCF- How long will the Commission take to respond?

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Red Notice Challenges

I recently received an inquiry from a reader who posed perhaps the most common question that arises from people who have submitted inquiries to INTERPOL’s CCF:

My mother-in-law has been a red notice subject, because her company in UAE could not repay a commercial loan and her partners escaped. So, she is the only one bank is going after to punish. She was and still is out of UAE, otherwise, she could be behind bar for god knows how long, for a loan.
Our local lawyer tried to communicate with the bank in UAE, but they were so sure about Interpol and rejected any communication. They keep asking for full amount + benefits and penalty costs at once. So, she made a request to CCF and we received a reply confirmation that the request is admissible. Now, 5 months have passed and we received nothing from CCF.

What do you think? Is there going to be a final decision and how long does it take to hear from CCF?

This reader has already submitted a request for some form of relief (it is not specified whether the request is an inquiry as to whether information exists in INTERPOL’s files, or for a removal of data from INTERPOL’s files) and has been advised that the form of the request is admissible.  The letter of admissibility is normally issued within 30 days of the CCF receiving the request.  The reader is now at the stage where s/he is awaiting a decision from INTERPOL.

While five months is a long time in the real world, it seems to be the blink of any eye in the realm of INTERPOL. I have seen inquiries take up to two years before a response is given, and others have been issued as quickly as two months from the date of receipt. Given the fact that, under the leadership of Chairperson Nina Vajić, the CCF has increased its yearly sessions from 3 to 4, we might hope for more consistently rapid response times going forward.  That change was only implemented this year, however, so it is still too early to know its full effect.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL suspends FIFA donation funds, but what happens to the money now, and what happens to INTERPOL?

Posted in Collateral Effects of Red Notices, INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Uncategorized

INTERPOL is shocked, shocked, to find that FIFA might be connected to corrupt activity.

Last week, I addressed INTERPOL’s listing of several individuals who are wanted for prosecution by the United States for FIFA-related financial crimes.  That post is here.  In light of those listings, RNLJ requested INTERPOL’s verification of reports that INTERPOL was reviewing its existing financial arrangement with FIFA, wherein FIFA had pledged 20 million euros to the organization over a period of years to aid in the fight against match-fixing.

In fact, INTERPOL responded to our request with a confirmation that the organization had not only reviewed its agreement with FIFA, but had come to a decision to suspend the use of funds provided under the agreement until further notice.  INTERPOL also made a public statement regarding the decision:

INTERPOL is announcing the suspension of its agreement with FIFA following investigations into corruption against football’s governing body.

Under a May 2011 agreement, INTERPOL received a donation from FIFA worth EUR 20 million to create a 10-year Integrity in Sport programme.

The decision by INTERPOL Secretatry General Jürgen Stock will see the world police body freeze the use of financial contributions from FIFA.

INTERPOL’s Executive Committee endorsed the decision at its three-day (10 -12 June) meeting at the General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France.

The agreement with FIFA includes a clause which states that ‘the Funding Party declares notably that its activities are compatible with the principles, aims and activities of INTERPOL’.

“In light of the current context surrounding FIFA, while INTERPOL is still committed to developing our Integrity in Sport programme, I have decided to suspend the agreement,” said Secretary General Stock.

“All external partners, whether public or private, must share the fundamental values and principles of the Organization, as well as those of the wider law enforcement community,” added Mr Stock.

INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport programme has helped international efforts across its 190 member countries to prevent the manipulation of sporting events and illegal gambling by criminal groups. Their ongoing criminal activities require a global response.

INTERPOL continues to closely monitor developments involving FIFA.

 Note that INTERPOL did not say that it is returning any of the funds, rather the agreement has been suspended.  With time, the organization may decide to keep any funds that it has received thus far from FIFA, or the Executive Committee may feel compelled to return the funds depending on what other information comes to light.

Interestingly enough, INTERPOL may find itself in the same position of many Red Notice subjects who have done business with alleged criminals:  it has received funds in furtherance of a particular initiative, and those funds are later found to have a possible connection with illegal activity.  A private individual may find himself subject to the “knew or should have known” standard when it comes to prosecution for financial crimes.  Based on the developments related to the U.S.-based prosecution and the information that is now publicly available, INTERPOL may find itself answering questions about whether it knew or should have known that the anti-corruption funds it received from FIFA may have been related to illegal activity.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


FIFA and INTERPOL, together again- U.S. charges FIFA officials and obtains Red Notices against them

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Red Notice Challenges

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that FIFA has been dealing with a scandal lately: the U.S. government has charged multiple individuals with ties to FIFA with expansive criminal violations, and INTERPOL has issued Red Notices for six of those people.

FIFA and INTERPOL have had extensive dealings with one another before, but in a very different manner. Interestingly enough, in 2011, FIFA made a 20 million euro donation to INTERPOL to help combat match-fixing.  We discussed the goals of the donation here.

Now, however, the international focus has shifted from those collaborative anti-corruption efforts to the allegations of corrupt activities by multiple FIFA officials and businessmen connected to FIFA.  In the indictment, the U.S. government alleges that the crimes were committed in the context of banking, commercial and investment activity that took place in both the U.S. and abroad.  Federal prosecutors charged the defendants with numerous counts of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, unlawful procurement of naturalization, and obstruction of justice.  Those charges provide the grounds for the Red Notices.

INTERPOL issued a statement regarding the Red Notices, and named each of the Red Notice subjects:

The Red Notices have been issued for;

Jack Warner, Trinidad & Tobago national, former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.

Nicolás Leoz, Paraguayan national, former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.

Alejandro Burzaco, Argentine national, controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis, Argentine nationals, controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

José Margulies (also known as José Lazaro), Brazilian national, controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd., broadcasting businesses.

 The Red Notice subjects’ responses have varied from silence by most of the subjects to Jack Warner’s alleged threats to reveal presumably inculpatory information against others.

Should Mr. Warner and the other Red Notice subjects decide to fight their Red Notices, they face an uphill battle.  Any Red Notice challenge is difficult, and those originating from the United States, like other relatively non-corrupt countries, will likely provide fewer grounds for removal of the Red Notice than more corrupt countries that have records of rampant due process and human rights violations.

In terms of INTERPOL’s relationship with FIFA, it has been reported that INTERPOL is reviewing its financial arrangement with the organization; Red Notice Law Journal has requested verification of this report and will provide updates as they become available.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

How INTERPOL contributed to the confusion about its role in the abduction of a Mexican minor to the United States

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity

This week, Mexican and U.S. officials participated in the “return” of a 14-year-old girl to her “mother” in the United States.  Except that the woman claiming to be the mother is not her mother, and the girl had never lived with the woman at all.

Rafael Romo of CNN reports that the case unfolded as follows:

According to a statement from the Mexican Foreign Ministry, the woman had recently traveled to Guanajuato and seen her daughter there.

“Derived on this information … and in compliance with international law … the judge in charge of the case asked Interpol to intervene to make the girl appear at a hearing in which the court would confirm her identity,” the statement said.

But what happened next puzzled both Alondra’s family and Mexican public opinion: The teenager was sent to the United States before her identify was positively confirmed.

Once in Houston, and with questions about her identity being raised by the girl’s biological parents, the Mexican Consulate in that city ordered DNA testing. The results confirmed that Alondra is not the daughter of the Houston woman.

Not surprisingly, the minor’s parents have said they are “taking action on the matter.”  This might concern INTERPOL.

Because of the use of the word, “Interpol,” by the Mexican Foreign Ministry, it appears to all the world that INTERPOL sent agents out to pick up the young lady.  Of course, this did not happen.  INTERPOL is a data-sharing agency based in Lyon, France.  Its member countries each have a liaison office within their own territory, and that liaison office is usually a law enforcement entity.  [INTERPOL clarified on April 23rd that it played no role in the matter when it tweeted:   “INTERPOLHQ not involved in #Alondra case” (@INTERPOL_HQ).]  INTERPOL takes no action to effect arrests, detain people, or aid in their extradition or transport; that is done by domestic law enforcement officers.

INTERPOL certainly contributes to this confusion by allowing its member countries to refer to their own liaison offices as if they are in fact INTERPOL offices.  For example, the United States’ NCB office refers to itself as “INTERPOL Washington;” Albania’s NCB uses the moniker, “INTERPOL Tirana;”  Canada lists its NCB as, “INTERPOL Ottowa,” and the list goes on and on.  The fact that INTERPOL allows the use of its name by liaison offices is interesting, given the organization’s efforts to create bright lines between itself and member country NCB activity in the revised Rules on the Processing of Data in 2012.

So when we see news articles reporting that INTERPOL took some particular action that was in fact carried out by domestic authorities, no one should be surprised, least of all INTERPOL.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.