Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law has successfully obtained the removal of three Red Notices for our client, Arturo Escobar. Mr. Escobar was accused of bribery, organized crime, and money laundering in Ecuador and Panama. 

Corruption in Ecuador causes politically motivated prosecutions

Mr. Escobar’s case arose from a political dispute between two of Ecuador’s former presidents. After a journalist published a series of articles claiming to have uncovered corruption at the highest levels of government about Petroecuador, the country’s national oil company, then-President Rafael Correa faced pressure to show that he did not tolerate corruption. He began a politically motivated prosecution to address the scandal in 2016. While there appeared to have been credible bribery allegations against some individuals, he used the prosecution to insist that other, specific individuals be prosecuted, even where there was evidence of their innocence. There was also evidence that he shielded his allies from prosecution and steered the prosecution away from himself. As a result of the biased investigation and prosecution, many individuals, including Mr. Escobar, were prosecuted for alleged bribery or conspiracy to commit bribery. 

Ecuadorian officials tried Mr. Escobar in his absence. He never received the requested evidence that could have aided in his defense in his trial. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Escobar was convicted despite the lack of due process and the absence of evidence implicating him. 

Results

Estlund Law has significant experience removing politically motivated Red Notices. Ms. Estlund used that expertise to build the case for removing Mr. Escobar’s three outstanding notices, focusing on the lack of evidence provided by the prosecution, the political motivation behind the case, and the human rights violations suffered by Mr. Escobar and others in the case. 

After reviewing the firm’s removal request, INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) found all three Red Notices in Mr. Escobar’s name uncompliant with INTERPOL’s rules. The organization recognized that although criminal elements were present in this case, the predominant factor was political motivation. 

Mr. Escobar said after the case was resolved, “We can’t express with words how grateful and joyful we feel with this resolution. We want to thank you and all your team for your amazing work, kindness, and understanding.”

Ms. Estlund notes that this case was specifically characterized by the dedication of Mr. Escobar’s family, particularly his wife, to ensure that the matter was fully and fairly resolved so their family could resume a normal, productive life.

Our last two posts in this series discussed how a Red Notice can have a residual effect on an individual. Those posts detailed the effects on a person’s financial abilities and lasting inaccurate data within a government’s databases. Today’s post will detail the lasting damages a Red Notice has on an individual’s online reputation. 

In an increasingly digital world, individuals often become acquainted with each other online before even being introduced in person. This being the case, an individual’s online presence has become a vital part of their reputation. 

Once INTERPOL’s CCF has determined that an individual’s case should be removed from INTERPOL’s databases, the notice is removed and that individual should then be free of Red Notice-related complications. When considering the digital world though, where nothing can truly be erased, the consequences of a Red Notice could potentially follow a person forever. 

To combat this, previous subjects of Red Notices sometimes address the problem by:

  • directly contacting the sources of the online information to request corrective action;
  • systematically uploading the new, positive or neutral information about themselves online in order to minimize the dominance of the negative information, or
  • engaging a reputation management company for this task.  

All approaches are designed to ensure the internet reflects updated information regarding a person and suppress or minimize negative or false search results.

These posts have highlighted the reputational risks of Red Notices, detailing the remaining difficulties in banking, government data, and online reputation.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Our last post discussed the financial difficulties that may remain following Red Notice removal. Today’s post will similarly detail the residual effect of Red Notices in government and police databases. 

Once INTERPOL’s CCF has determined that an individual’s case is either not truly criminal, politically motivated, or without sufficient legal information to sustain a Red Notice, that individual should be free of Red Notice-related complications. Although INTERPOL notifies its member countries once a Red Notice is removed, there are instances in which outdated information remains in domestic government databases. 

When there is outdated Red Notice information on an individual, that person may face the same barriers they did as a Red Notice subject. Incorrect information on an individual could lead them to be detained when trying to travel or interact with law enforcement, denied financial services as detailed in the previous post, or to suffer the tarnishment of their reputation. Outdated government data can include showing a case is open when it is not, showing an existing Red Notice after it has been removed, or other damaging inaccuracies. 

If an individual is experiencing the difficulties of a Red Notice subject after the removal of a Red Notice, that individual should contact their lawyer to decide the best course of action. This may  involve notifying the CCF to request that it remind the member country holding incorrect data to modify or delete it. It may also involve contacting that country directly for the same purpose, or providing documentation to the office or agency that has the outdated information.

Our next post will detail the lasting damages a Red Notice can have on an individual’s online reputation.  

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Once the hard part of dealing with INTERPOL is over, and an individual’s Red Notice is removed, many difficulties that come with a Red Notice become obsolete. Though this is true, occasionally there are remaining challenges, particularly if the notice had to do with a criminal allegation of a financial crime. 

After INTERPOL deletes a Red Notice, whether due to it being politically motivated or otherwise improperly requested, INTERPOL’s member countries are notified of the deletion. This should be reflected in each country’s records, but this is not always the case. Sometimes domestic records are not updated properly, leading to falsehoods regarding previous Red Notice subjects. Such inaccurate information can cause problems in other areas as well.

For example, banks and financial intitutions utilize a variety of companies that provide personal data lists of those who are politically exposed, wanted for financial crimes, or listed by governmental agencies as prohibited business partners. If a country holds outdated information on a previous Red Notice subject, financial agencies such as those mentioned below are more likely to treat the individual as an active Red Notice subject.

As stated in a previous post detailing this topic, the companies that provide personal data lists, such as World-Check, LexisNexis, Bureau Van Dijk, and Dow Jones may obtain their data from media sources without independently checking the accuracy of the source’s reporting. Estlund Law had a client whose data was reported by such a company as having an open criminal case years after the case was completely dropped by the authorities. This client’s data was listed and circulated to every company that subscribes to this service, and the data was incorrect and outdated. Fortunately, these cases are rare, but they do occur.

Once these companies are made aware of their inaccuracies they should either remove or modify the information to be correct. 

Our next post will detail the residual effects of Red Notices in terms of government and police databases. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law client Dr. Faezeh Faghihi has spent her life in the service of others as a physician in her native Iran and in the United States, her adopted home country. Trained as a gynecologist, she practiced as a physician while in Iran, delivering hundreds of babies. She continued working in the medical field after moving to the United States, where she opened a gene sequencing laboratory called Express Gene. At Express Gene, she and her family members, also trained physicians, screened thousands of genetic samples to determine whether patients had COVID-19 or other conditions or illnesses discernible through DNA analysis.

As the Iranian population has a high occurrence of genetic variations, the Faghihi family often provided humanitarian and medical aid to the medical community in Iran, where access to genetic sequencing is less available. They sought licenses where required by OFAC. 

The U.S. government charged Dr. Faghihi and her co-defendant family members with conspiring to illegally export medical equipment to Iran, exporting that equipment, smuggling DNA samples into the United States, and illegally transferring funds from Iran to the United States.

The exportation of genetic sequencing machines to Iran required no license after December of 2016, but despite that change in the law, the Faghihis were charged with exporting genetic sequencing machines without an OFAC license. Dr. Faghihi was charged with acts that were not criminal at the time they were alleged to have occurred. Because the law with which they were charged was no longer a law, the accompanying money laundering/wire fraud charges were invalid as well. Likewise, the importation of DNA was excluded from the list of items that were illegal to import into the U.S. 

After the defense team filed motions to strike the invalid language from the indictment and to dismiss the charges, the government ultimately agreed to dismiss the charges against Dr. Faghihi and her co-defendants. The charges against Dr. Farzaneh Modarresi (represented by Hilton Napoleon) were dropped at the same time as Dr. Faghihi’s, and the charges against Dr. Mohammed Faghihi (represented by Saam Zangeneh) were dropped several months later pursuant to a pre-trial diversion agreement.

Dr. Faghihi has been reunited with her family and is settling back into a normal life. Attorney Estlund said, “This case is an example of how a normal, law-abiding, private citizen can be wrongly targeted by the government. This client and her family did an excellent job of remaining united and mobilized. They worked tirelessly to aid our legal team in Dr. Faghihi’s defense. We are beyond happy for them and for Dr. Faghihi’s victory in this case.”

The first post in this series discussed Turkey’s recent detention of 56 individuals being sought with Red Notices. Today’s post will describe Turkey’s turbulent history with INTERPOL and how it affects the country’s credibility today. 

Turkey’s current and recent INTERPOL abuse

Although Turkey has been caught seeking improper INTERPOL Red Notices several times, its abuse of the organization continues.

For example, Even after reported efforts to prevent the abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notices, Turkish authorities repotedly continue to target INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document(SLTD) system. Authorities abuse this system by recording the passports of dissidents as lost, stolen, revoked, or invalid, in an attempt to have those people deported to Turkey when they travel. When an individual is improperly targeted using this system, they are stopped by a country’s border control, having been flagged as using a stolen passport. They may be detained while police checks, interviews, and searches are conducted, and ultimately the process of deportation or extradition may be initiated. 

As cited in a 2019 study requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) provided data regarding Turkey’s use and abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system. That data included a 2017 report in which the Stockholm Centre for Freedom concluded that ‘Turkey under autocratic leader Erdoğan’s rule must be recognized as a country that uses INTERPOL in bad faith in order to advance political persecution and hunt down government critics and opponents’. The report highlighted the abuse of INTERPOL’s SLTD system, stating that ‘this practice started in 2014 and gained pace in 2015 and 2016 when the NCB for Turkey allegedly reported passports that were canceled as stolen or lost on INTERPOL’s SLTD.

Turkey’s abusive history

The Red Notice Law Journal(RNLJ) has been monitoring and reporting on Turkey’s INTERPOL abuse for years. In 2017, RNLJ discussed a case wherein a man who, if extradited to Turkey, faced over 22 years in prison for insulting the then-president of the country. More recently in 2021, RNLJ discussed the unlawful politically motivated Red Notices that existed despite the country’s hosting of the General Assembly that year. 

Turkey’s misuse of INTERPOL makes it necessary to scrutinize each action it takes involving the organization. To continue a relationship with Turkey and maintain its own integrity as a law enforcement support organization, INTERPOL would do well to apply certain restrictions so the country no longer involves INTERPOL in its abusive practices.

As discussed in an Open Letter addressed to INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock, if INTERPOL wishes to take action against abuse, the organization may integrate the following:

  • Adopt measures to prevent abuse of its SLTD database and immediately delete all non-compliant data on the SLTD database. 
  • Take steps to hold the NCBs accountable for their misapplication of INTERPOL rules and regulations
  • Implement a similar review mechanism to that of INTERPOL Notices for the SLTD database 
  •  Suspend Turkey from using INTERPOL databases 
  • Suspend Turkey from the use of the SLTD database until further checks can be put in place

The failure or refusal to demand a higher level of accountability from abusive member countries will result in the erosion of confidence in INTERPOL as a transparent, accountable, lawful organization.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The Minister of the Interior of Turkey, Ali Yerlikaya, has reported the detention of 56 Red Notice subjects with crimes ranging from drug dealing and money laundering to murder, counterfeiting, and assault. These subjects are allegedly wanted in 18 countries including the United States, Germany, India, Russia, and several former Soviet republics, as well as Israel and Palestine. 

As stated by The Guardian Nigeria, Yerlikaya’s office did not disclose names, noting only that the suspects were rounded up in coordinated security sweeps across 11 provinces, including Istanbul.

Mr. Yerlikaya wrote on X,  

“I congratulate our heroic police officers who carried out the operation at dawn this morning. Our nation’s prayers are with you. Our state’s breath is always on the necks of terrorists and their collaborators, organized crime organizations, poison dealers and criminal centers,”

What this means for INTERPOL and Red Notice subjects

Although the detention of 56 actual criminals would be an admiral feat, Turkey’s history of INTERPOL abuse gives cause for concern regarding the arrests. For example, in an article posted in July of 2023 by Ali Yildiz and Ben Keith, Turkey’s continued abuse is detailed. The article discusses Turkey’s abuse of INTERPOL’s tools at the hands of its current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The country’s government has reportedly manipulated INTERPOL’s tools to achieve extradition of individuals the government wishes to detain for oppressive or otherwise illegal purposes. These motivations are exemplified in the following cases among others discussed in a study requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights:

  • Halis Aydogan, a member of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party in Turkey, was charged in Turkey with ‘attempting to change the constitutional order’ and throwing ‘molotov cocktails’ at the Direction of Taxes in 1996. Aydogan was reportedly forced to sign all accusatory statements under torture before he escaped to France and was granted political asylum. Following a Red Notice issued at the request of Turkey, Aydogan was detained in Georgia in 2015 and subsequently released. It is believed the Red Notice remains in place.
  • Murcat Acar, a Turkish national, was transferred to Turkish authorities by Bahraini police following the issuance of a Red Notice by Turkey. Before his first appearance in a Turkish court in 2016, Acar was allegedly tortured and suffered ill-treatment. Subsequently, Acar petitioned the Turkish Constitutional Court, alleging the Turkish government violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Hamza Yalçın was arrested in 1979 on terror charges in Turkey and escaped from prison after six months, seeking asylum in Sweden. After returning to Turkey in 1990 Yalçın was again indicted on terror charges and spent three years in prison. In 1994 Yalçın left Turkey and gained Swedish citizenship. Yalçın was indicted on charges of insulting Turkish President Erdoğan in April 2017. Following a Red Notice issued by Turkey, Yalçın was detained in Barcelona in 2017. After criticism of the arrest, including from a Swedish member of the European Parliament and from The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Yalçın was released in October 2017 and returned to Sweden.

Turkey’s abuse of INTERPOL’s tools has been addressed in this blog previously as well. The next post in this series will discuss how Turkey’s history of INTERPOL abuse affects its reliability today. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The last post in this series explored the pattern of erectile dysfunction drugs being the most seized substance by INTERPOL along with the risks of corruption within the operation. Today’s post will explore the ways in which these drugs were sold to unsuspecting consumers. 

Operational Results:

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea yielded remarkable results, including 72 arrests, 325 new investigations, the seizure of illicit drugs worth over 7 million USD, and the shutting down of over 1,300 websites. This level of operational results raises a critical question: how were these illicit drugs finding their way to consumers?

Exploitation of Swiss Websites: 

A significant number of illicit drugs were discovered in the process of INTERPOL’s cooperation with domestic law enforcement to shut down over 1,300 websites.  Additionally, Swissmedic, which took part in the operation, stated that during this year’s operation, it focused on how criminals used websites and social media posts to sell their products. It was reported that illegal dealers were misusing legal Swiss websites that have no connection with medicinal products. They allegedly hacked the uninvolved websites and added pages with sales options for falsified medicinal products and doping agents. By doing so, the criminals aimed to create the impression of being an official Swiss supplier. 

The significant findings of Operation Pangea showcase the positive collaborations between countries throughout the world. As crime continues to extend into the digital world, we should expect to see more of this type of collaboration.

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

Switzerland is generally considered a very trustworthy country, maintaining a rank of 7 on the corruption scale. Although there is always room for corruption, this indicated that arrests made in Switzerland should be reliable and not a country INTERPOL needs to monitor so closely. Generally speaking, a Red Notice subject with a case originating in Switzerland may find it more difficult to establish violations of INTERPOL’s rules than subjects with cases originating in other countries with a record of due process and human rights violations.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The last post in this series described INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea and how law enforcement from varying countries use INTERPOL’s tools to share information and do cross-border investigations.  Today’s post will discuss the operation’s results along with risk of corruption within the operation. 

Operational Results

INTERPOL’s findings during this operation include the following: 

  • 72 arrests worldwide
  • USD 7 million in potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals seized 
  • 325 new investigations opened 
  • The closure of more than 1,300 criminal websites

Global Impact: 

  • Mozambique: authorities seized 9,000 bottles of suspected counterfeit cough syrups after discovering contradictions between product labels and official documents.
  •  Australia: authorities seized some 11,000 COVID-19 irregular test kits, demonstrating continued criminal exploitation of the pandemic.
  • Qatar: customs officers seized 2,500 prescription painkillers hidden in cereal boxes, from a passenger flying in from India.
  • Peru and Ecuador: Some 13,000 counterfeit and/or expired pain medicines were confiscated during searches at a bus depot.

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

Red Notice subjects could be deeply affected by the corrupt member countries involved in Operation Pangea. As seen in the bulleted list above, notable contributors to this operation include Mozambique, Australia, Qatar, Peru, and Ecuador. Mozambique maintains a rank of 26 on the corruption scale, Australia maintains a 13, Qatar maintains 40, and Peru and Ecuador maintain 101. While there is always risk of officials engaging in illegal action, certain countries involved in this operation come with increased risk. 

The risk of corruption is exemplified in the reported 30% of public servants having paid a bribe in Peru in the last 12 months.  Additionally, Peru’s current president’s career has been described as, “A dark mess of severe human rights violations,” Peru serves as an example of a corrupt country that poses a danger to Red Notice subjects, as the authorities are more willing to participate in illegal activities. 

The trend of Erectile Dysfunction Medications: INTERPOL’s role in the sex industry

Despite the range of substances confiscated during Operation Pangea, INTERPOL has confirmed that erectile dysfunction medications continue to be the most seized drug globally, accounting for 22 percent of seizures during the operation. Psychotherapeutic agents such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines, and stimulants were a close second at 19 percent, followed by sex hormones and gastrointestinal medicines at 12 percent respectively.

Although this statistic may be surprising, it is not new for INTERPOL. As of 2019, INTERPOL stated, “The highest number of seizures under Pangea were of fake erectile dysfunction medicines.” and again in 2022 INTERPOL wrote, “Counterfeit or unauthorized erectile dysfunction medicines comprised roughly 40 percent of all products seized.” 

As reported in a Forbes article, “Interpol did not immediately respond to a request from Forbes as to why erectile dysfunction drugs make up the largest seizure in its operations. According to a study from Tulane University School of Medicine, one potential reason for the booming market for counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs has to do with patients who are too embarrassed to seek treatment, or who are looking for cheaper alternatives to drugs such as Viagra.”

The next and final installment in this series will delve into the deceptive tactics used to lure consumers into purchasing illicit substances.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Operation Pangea XVI

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea is an annual week-long operation which relies on the efforts of police, customs, regulatory bodies, and private sector companies to to dismantle the illegal networks that contribute to the sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs. This year’s operation spanned from October 3 to 10, taking place throughout 89 of INTERPOL’s member countries, allowing law enforcement to target counterfeit drugs that had been taken out of legal supply chains to be sold without regulation. 

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea XVI led to significant outcomes, including 72 arrests, 325 new investigations, the seizure of illicit drugs worth over 7 million USD, and the shutting down of over 1,300 websites. 

INTERPOL’s Methods of Communication

As the orchestrator of Operation Pangea, INTERPOL likely utilized its global communications system, I-24/7 to facilitate the exchange of information across participating countries. I-24/7 is the network that allows law enforcement across INTERPOL’s member countries to communicate effectively across the world. This network was likely a key aspect of the operation, ensuring information was shared promptly, allowing for swift and targeted action against criminal networks. 

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

When considering INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea, many Red Notice subjects (or potential Red Notice subjects) are unaware of how the operation affects them. Red Notice subjects, some of whom are actually law-abiding citizens, are most commonly found through international travel, immigration proceedings requiring background checks, and contact with domestic law enforcement officials. Operations like this one create risk as they bring an influx of law enforcement with the power to detain Red Notice subjects to INTERPOL member countries. Additionally, INTERPOL has 196 member countries, and with such a massive operation involving 89 of those countries, the inevitable presence of corrupt countries brings heightened risk to Red Notice subjects.

The next posts in this series will delve into the specific findings of the operation, and INTERPOL’s findings on how the illicit drugs were being sold.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.