The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s files(CCF) has recently released its Annual Report for 2021. Notably discussed within the report was the processing of 1,579 cases, 651 of which were complaints. This series of posts will comprehensively review the 651 complaints processed in 2021. 

Among the 651 Complaints processed by the CCF:

  • 478 were complaints concerning admissible requests from applicants who were the subjects of data recorded in INTERPOL’s files. 
  • Among these complaints, 133 involved cases in which the CCF established that the data challenged met the required legal conditions for their retention in INTERPOL’s files and were therefore considered compliant. This means that the removal requests were denied and the subjects’ data remained in INTERPOL’s databases.
  • Compliance of data challenged with applicable rules was subject to updates in 20 cases in INTERPOL’s files to ensure the quality and accuracy of data, as required by Article 12 of the RPD. This could mean that the charges were improperly listed initially, or the status of the case had changed, or some development had occurred which required updating of the the data.
  • In 296 cases, the Commission established that the challenged data did not meet legal requirements and should therefore be deleted from INTERPOL’s files as they did not comply with INTERPOL’s rules. This means that the subjects who requested that their names be removed from INTERPOL’s databases were successful in their requests.

NCBs’ failure to respond or to provide a sufficient response

  • For 50 the 478 complaints mentioned above, the Commission concluded that the data should be deleted because the National Central Bureau (NCB) of the requesting country did not answer the questions raised by the Commission. This information tells us that not all NCBs are interested in defending their Red Notice requests, or at least not for all cases.

NCBs removed data on their own

  • In 49 cases, either the INTERPOL General Secretariat or the National Central Bureau at the source of the challenged data decided to delete them from the INTERPOL Information System before the Commission had taken a decision.  In these cases, the subjects prevailed on their removal requests without the CCF having to render a decision.

Blocking of data

  • In 311 of the admissible complaints, access to data recorded in INTERPOL’s files concerning the applicants was blocked, a topic further examined in the Red Notice Law Journal’s previous post regarding blocking, as a precautionary measure, pending the finalization of the cases, from the moment serious doubts arose over their compliance with INTERPOL’s rules.

In the next post, we will look further into the CCF’s 2021 Annual Report.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Updated Full Press Release for Chuang Liang Li (1)
ESTLUND LAW OBTAINS THE DELETION OF RED NOTICE ON BEHALF OF CHINESE DISSIDENT CHUAN LIANG LI

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Chuan Liang Li, former Vice Mayor of Jixi City in China, is now free of the Red Notice that the People’s Republic of China had issued in his name for exposing corruption within the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”).  A former government official, Mr. Li belonged to the CCP for 30 years, held various positions within the government public sector, and worked as a financial director for the Jixi City Government. Between 2011 to 2014, when Mr. Li served as Vice Mayor of Jixi City, he discovered corruption within the CCP. He made multiple attempts to report the corrupt acts and to stop public officials from violating their duties to the Chinese citizens. However, the attempts to end corruption within the CCP failed. As time progressed, members of the CCP, including Mr. Li’s superiors, asked him to engage in acts of corruption, which he refused to do. It eventually became apparent that Mr. Li’s reports against public officials had placed him and his family in danger.

In 2014, Mr. Li decided to step down from the CCP; he was not permitted to officially resign until 2017. Shortly after his resignation, he fled China for South Korea, where he was repeatedly followed by members of the CCP. Fearing for his continued safety, he fled to the United States in 2020 with the assistance of the U.S.-based Chinese Democratic Party.

Upon his arrival in the United States, Mr. Li spoke out against the Chinese government and its corruption. He gave multiple interviews, criticizing both the CCP and the Chinese government’s corruption and its attempts to cover up certain aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak. A few weeks after his first interview, the CCP filed charges in China against Mr. Li, accusing him of “embezzling large amounts of state-owned funds and accepting bribes.” Subsequently, Mr. Li’s sister, brother, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested and told that their arrest was due to Mr. Li’s public criticism of Chinese authorities. His former colleagues and friends were also arrested, interrogated, and tortured.

In February 2020, Mr. Li received confirmation from the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) that a Red Notice in his name existed in INTERPOL’s database.  After learning about the Red Notice against him, Mr. Li focused on gathering evidence to prove his innocence against the alleged charges filed by the People’s Republic of China. He worked with his U.S.-based attorney, Michelle Estlund, to prepare a request to remove the Red Notice. They filed the removal request in May of 2021.

Based on the evidence Mr. Li gathered to support his removal request, the CCF agreed that the Red Notice should be removed. Ms. Estlund and Mr. Li received notice of INTERPOL’s decision to remove the Red Notice earlier this year.

Mr. Li remains hopeful that his country will one day be free from the corruption its citizens continue to endure. Mr. Li recalls his thoughts about the CCP in an interview that the Epoch Times reported in 2020:

“I will fight against the tyranny of the CCP. I hope that I can contribute to the construction of a democratic, free, and legal new China. I am not young anymore. I can’t see the day of success, but I hope that through my efforts, more people can be affected, so that more people in the world, especially those in mainland China, can see the truth, so that our children may be able to wait for China and the day when democracy is realized in the mainland.”

The case of Chuan Liang Li is only one of multiple examples of what happens when dissidents speak out against illegal activities in China. His attorney, Michelle Estlund, recognized Mr. Li’s bravery in the face of so much difficulty: “Mr. Li tried for years to advocate for reform from within the party. When he realized that his efforts were falling on deaf ears, he left the party at great personal cost to himself and his family. He began advocating for the people of China from outside the party by exposing political corruption, and he has continued to do so to this day. His tenacity, strength, and commitment to democratic ideals are commendable.”

It is a given that a certain level of trust, even if for limited purposes, must exist between INTERPOL and its member countries. When one of INTERPOL’s 195 member countries sends a request for a Red Notice to INTERPOL in hopes of obtaining Red Notices against wanted persons, the requests then become part of INTERPOL’s files.  

While INTERPOL decides whether or not to publish Red Notices, the organization does not own the data that it receives from member countries.

The information sent in by member countries belongs to the submitting member countries.  INTERPOL acts as a depository for that information and cannot modify it absent the member country’s request or consent.  Once INTERPOL circulates a person’s data as a Red Notice, diffusion, or other types of notice, it may update or remove the notice. Still, it cannot change the information that the member country provided originally. 

INTERPOL has strict rules regarding who may have access to its files and under what circumstances. Unless another member country submits a qualifying request for such access, it will not release the information. 

Thus, when Chinese authorities request a Red Notice, the request will not be changed unless China changes it. INTERPOL can choose not to issue the notice, or to later remove it, but another country can neither dictate the content of the data nor have a say in whether the data will be circulated. Red Notice subjects often seek assistance from their home countries when attempting to challenge a Red Notice, and such member country advocacy on behalf of citizens is quite rare.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ESTLUND LAW OBTAINS THE DELETION OF RED NOTICE IN RUSSIAN BANKING CASE

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law, P.A., has achieved the removal of a Red Notice in the case of a client who had been targeted in a politically motivated case from Russia.

The client is a former banking executive who had been targeted by Russian authorities and the Central Bank of Russia. The case arose from a concerted effort by Russian political authorities in the context of a banking crisis to seize private assets and drive foreign stakeholders out of the country.

Russian officials instigated criminal proceedings against individual bank shareholders, including the client, after initiating politically motivated supervisory interventions by the Central Bank of Russia. The intervention eventually resulted in Russia nationalizing banks and expropriating their assets.

When the client learned about the Red Notice, he contacted Estlund Law. Attorney Michelle Estlund prepared a removal request based on the political nature of the case and the due process violations that occurred during the investigation and prosecution of the case. The CCF ultimately agreed that the matter was political in nature and that the client’s data should be deleted from INTERPOL’s databases.

The client is now working and living in peace with his family again. He recognizes that the CCF took great care in its analysis of the case and provided a sound and reasoned basis for its decision in his case.

Attorney Michelle Estlund said, “It was critical in this case that the client took the time needed to work with our team to fully understand, prepare, and present his removal request in the most effective way possible.”

INTERPOL’s annual General Assembly of 2022

INTERPOL’s General Assembly is an annual event hosted for INTERPOL’s member countries to discuss and vote on varying global law enforcement issues. The 90th annual General Assembly meeting will be held this year in New Delhi, India, from October 18th to the 22nd. The traditionally 4-day event is always hosted by one of INTERPOL’s member countries. Attending representatives vote on issues to ensure that INTERPOL is meeting the needs of its member countries. The General Assembly is INTERPOL’s supreme governing body and there are either one or several representatives (typically police chiefs and ministry officials) elected from each of INTERPOL’s current 195 member countries. Each country may cast one vote on issues discussed.

The agenda each year includes:

  •  Discussion on the principles and measures needed for INTERPOL to reach its objectives.
  • Election of new members of the Executive Committee, the governing body which provides guidance and direction in between sessions of the Assembly. 
  • Discussion and approval of INTERPOL’s activities and financial plans for the coming year.
  • Observation of current major crime trends and security threats facing the world. 
  • Resolutions which are voted on by member countries. 

 In the next post, we’ll look at the methods that will be used to address issues raised during the 90th GA.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Again this week, there is news that a cryptocurrency entreprenuer is wanted to face criminal charges. In the case of Do Kwon, the co-creator of failed cryptocurrency TerraUSD, South Korean authorities alleged that 280,000 investors lost USD40 billion when his cryptocurrency value crashed. “The crash is also believed to have caused more than $500 billion in losses across the wider crypto market globally,” according to the report.

With numbers like these, the immediate thought is that someone has to pay. And when there is true criminal fraud or deception involved in investment failures,  authorities should seek to prosecute wrongdoers.

But. Businesses and investments related to cryptocurrency have created financial activity the likes of which have not been seen in our publicly traded markets, ever. While cryptocurrency is no longer new, cases related to cryptocurrency in the world’s judicial systems-particularly criminal courts- are fairly new. They often involve allegations of fraud and other financial crimes that fall under the umbrella of money laundering.

With any new phenonmenon, new forms of criminal prosecutions will arise. At its core, deviant human behavior often fits neatly into one of several criminal categories, and financial crime is no exception. Regardless of the vehicle used to accomplish fraud-wire fraud, mail fraud, fraud in the inducement of a contract, etc.- fraud involves deceiving another in order to obtain a gain. That has not changed as cryptocurrency has become a normal part of our financial lives.

Cryptocurrency: a complex fact pattern + different regulatory schemes + high value losses = change the defendant’s treatment

What is different about the criminal charges we are seeing in cases involving cryptocurrency is that jurisdictions don’t always know how -or have not yet agreed on a common scheme- to regulate the financial transactions related to cryptocurrency. Accordingly, a person may be wanted for and detained for a Red Notice even if it eventually will not be honored by INTERPOL’s other member countries.

Another factor is that the government officials charged with prosecuting and adjudicating related allegations do not always understand cryptocurrency. I have seen in my practice that prosecutorial and judicial lack of understanding of cryptocurrency and the business models related it often result in an alarmist reaction when large sums of money are alleged to have gone missing. This reaction can result in orders to allow proceedings to advance in the absence of any clearly stated criminal charges; to hold defendants in pre-trial detention rather than issue bond; and to freeze assets without articulating the requisite grounds.

The challenge for prosecutors and courts

The fact patterns related to cryptocurrency, its mining, blockchain activity and records, and the business models often associated with these cases can be quite complex. The challenge for the prosecution and the courts is to do the thing that is increasingly rare in today’s society: to take the time needed to fully understand the allegations and underlying facts before acting on them, and to decide whether a massive loss is simply an investment gone unfavorably, or the result of a true criminal act.

Otherwise, we will risk innocent people being subject to asset freezing, detention, and prosecution.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 Egypt’s Red Notice requests for Muslim Brotherhood members- a continuation of Egypt’s past INTERPOL abuses?

As discussed in the first two posts in this series, here and here, members of the banned group the Muslim Brotherhood are being targeted by Egypt’s government using INTERPOL’s Red Notice system. The current government tactics appear to be a continuation of its past actions: Egyptian officials previously arrested tens of thousands of people affiliated with the group in and accused them of cooperating with a terrorist organization. 

Egypt’s use of INTERPOL to attempt to re-capture exiled dissidents

According to the Middle East Eye, since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current Egyptian president, seized power in a military coup in 2013, a series of cases show Egyptian attempts to extradite exiled dissidents using Interpol’s Red Notice and diffusion alert systems.

The fate of dissidents who stand trial in Egypt

Human rights violations under the current regime in Egypt give cause for concern about the fate of dissidents who are returned to the country to face politically motivated charges. Several years ago, the criminal court in Minya, Egypt sentenced 529 people to death, possibly the largest mass death sentence in recent years anywhere, in a trial lacking basic due process protections. The main trial took under an hour, with the prosecution refusing to give individual trials and the court preventing defense lawyers from calling witnesses or presenting their case. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch commented, “The Minya court failed to carry out its most fundamental duty to assess the individual guilt of each defendant, violating the most basic fair trial right. These death sentences should be immediately quashed.” Hossam Abdel-Fattah, a urologist based in Qatar was one of the people sentenced. Following his sentence he was imprisoned for two months and forced to remain in India for two years while the case against his extradition was fought.

In yet another case, Elsayed Elezaby, a former engineer, told Middle Eastern Eye that soon after Sisi came to power he was informed of false terrorism charges made against him. He was held for six months in Albania and over a year in Ukraine due to a Red Notice in addition to facing up to 25 years in prison if he returned to Egypt. He went on to say “Interpol should not be supporting Egypt’s terrorist regime. They have to separate the political from the criminal.” 

The danger of INTERPOL’s invovlement with Muslim Brotherhood cases

INTERPOL’s data circulation system does not and cannot possibly detect every politically motivated Red Notice request. Some Red Notices that are invalid do slip through the organization’s screening process, which means that true dissidents can easily become Red Notice subjects. They are often unaware of their status until they attempt to travel and are either turned away, or worse, detained, due to the Red Notice.

This late notice places the Red Notice subjects at a decided disadvantage, should they choose to seek the removal of the notices. Those who dispute an abusive Red Notices or diffusions do not have the right to a hearing prior to its issuance to examine evidence that governments produce against them. This fact can allow ill-intentioned INTERPOL member countries to weaponize INTERPOL for its own political purposes, and to do so effectively if the invalid notice is not detected prior to a subject’s detention

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ESTLUND LAW OBTAINS THE DELETION OF RED NOTICES IN
MULTINATIONAL CASE

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law, P.A., has achieved the removal of Red Notices in the case of a client who was being corruptly pursued by a powerful adversary in multiple countries in the Middle East.

The client, a U.S. national, is a former business executive who had a business dispute with a politically connected and influential complaining party. The complaining party filed multiple criminal complaints in several jurisdictions and obtained Red Notices against the client.

The Red Notice requests contained false information and omitted significant relevant factors. Based on one of the Red Notices, and due to the extreme level of political influence the complainant holds, authorities in a Middle Eastern country detained the client for months.

During the client’s detention, the family contacted Estlund Law. Michelle Estlund sought the provisional blocking of the Red Notice because the circumstances of the case showed that the client and his family were in immediate danger. The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) agreed and blocked the notice while the case was studied.

The removal request was based upon the political nature of the case, the due process violations that occurred during the investigation and prosecution of the case, and the fact that the matter contained significant political elements. The CCF ultimately agreed that the matter was political in nature and that the clients’ rights had been violated.

The client has been reunited with his family and is settling back into normal life. He is profoundly grateful that the CCF took the time to study this case with careful attention to its many facets.

Attorney Michelle Estlund said, “This case is an example of how a normal, law-abiding, private citizen can be targeted by a well-connected opponent and become involved with INTERPOL. This client and his family worked with us to aid our legal team in preparing a well-documented removal request. We are beyond happy for them and their victory in this case.”

Egypt’s Red Notice requests for Muslim Brotherhood members: political or criminal in nature?

As addressed in the last post, earlier this year, the government of Egypt requested that INTERPOL issue Red Notices against members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Evidence points to these Red Notice requests being political in nature, which explicitly contradicts INTERPOL’s Constitution.

International human rights observervations report political bias in terrorist designation

The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Egypt after being blamed for a bombing that killed sixteen people even after a separate terrorist organisation took responsibility, causing Human Rights Watch to issue a public statement:

“By rushing to point the finger at the Brotherhood without investigations or evidence, the government seems motivated solely by its desire to crush a major opposition movement.”

Human Rights Watch has estimated that Egypt has imprisoned as many as 60,000 political activists, which Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current President of Egypt, has denied. 

Rodney Dixon, a defense lawyer for Yousef al-Qaradawi, whose name was removed from INTERPOL’s wanted list after INTERPOL found his charges were “of a political character,told the Middle East Eye that “the political motivations (behind the request for the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood members) were clear through the lack of proper, verifiable evidence presented by the Egyptian authorities.” He also warned that with the clear evidence from many cases of detainees being tortured in order to obtain confessions, individuals extradited to Egypt face the risk of not being given a fair trial. 

Most reputable sources such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Human Rights Watch, say the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation, which lends support to the idea that this matter is political in nature.

 As stated by the New York Times, even experts critical of the Brotherhood agree that the organization does not meet the criteria for a terrorist group. “Designating the Muslim Brotherhood a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ would wrongly equate it with violent extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and make their otherwise lawful activities illegal,” said Laura Pitter, senior US national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, on whether the Brotherhood should be designated a terrorist group in America. Human Rights Watch also stated, “The main branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt officially renounced violence in the 1970s and sought to promote its ideas through social and political activities,” again confirming the lack of terroristic tendencies. Furthermore, an extensive government review of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United Kingdom in 2015 found that it “has not been linked to terrorist-related activity in and against the UK.”

INTERPOL’s vulnerability to abusive Red Notice requests

Critics claim that the minimal requirements of INTERPOL to issue a Red Notice do not provide enough evidence to guarantee the crimes are not politically motivated and INTERPOL’s rules contain serious loopholes that allow governments to abuse its channels for political and other unlawful purposes.

A significant quantity of available information appears to counter the Egyptian government’s claims that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood is a clear political threat to those in power. It would seem that the Red Notice requests are improper under INTERPOL’s rules.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Special thanks to Sophia Estlund, a contributing guest author in this series.

 

This summer,  the government of Egypt asked INTERPOL to issue Red Notices on six members of the banned group the Muslim Brotherhood. The accused include figures such as Mahmoud Hussein, the movement’s secretary general until 2020, and strongman in Istanbul. It also includes Medhat Ahmed al-Haddad, former official of the Brotherhood in Turkey, Mohamed Zenati, Assem Mohamed Hussein, Ahmed Yasser and Moaz Abdel Azim. 

The designation as a terrorist group

Egyptian officials banned the group after the Brotherhood blaming the group for a suicide bombing at a police headquarters that killed sixteen people. The government deemed the Brotherhood responsible for the bombing despite another terrorist group called Ansar Bait al-Maqdis claiming responsibility. Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa said that, in response to the bombing, the government decided to classify the organization as a terrorist group. According to The Washington Post, Eissa did not provide evidence that the Brotherhood was involved in the bombing or any other recent attacks on security forces in Egypt.

The underlying charges

The named leaders of the Brotherhood group are  being accused of smuggling funds abroad to finance terrorism. The charges in court contain allegations that the men assumed leadership of a terrorist group and joined the group with knowledge of its purposes.

The political element

These claims of the Muslim Brotherhood being a terrorist group do not appear to be backed by evidence. Evidence instead points to the Brotherhood being a political opposition to those in power. INTERPOL’s Red Notice system allows member states to request that worldwide law enforcement locate and arrest a person, and while criminals have been caught using this system, autocratic regimes have used Red Notices to target dissidents living abroad. Since the military overthrow in July of 2013 of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has engaged in the systematic repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a member.

The Sisi regime was aware of the political threat the Muslim Brotherhood posed, and it began the narration of the Muslim Brotherhood being a terrorist group shortly after Mr. Siss assumed power in 2014. Because of this, tens of thousands of people are facing charges of participating in a banned terrorist organization and more are being detained without a warrant or have been disappeared. 

In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at the international community’s observations on the Muslim Brotherhood.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Special thanks to Sophia Estlund, a contributing guest author in this series.