Under the leadership of its current Chairman,  Vitalie Pirlog, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) has proven in this year’s decisions that it is serious about holding National Central Bureaus to their obligations under INTERPOL’s rules.

In his speech at this year’s General Assembly, Chairman Pirlog reminded INTERPOL’s membership that the CCF often seeks information from their National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”). These responses are essential to the CCF’s ability to make decisions about requests for removal of Red Notices from the requesting country. Mr. Pirlog reminded member countries that timely responses were particularly important, given the CCF’s new statute that generally requires a response to be issued within four to nine months.

INTERPOL has always provided the required assistance to its members’ NCBs, but historically, the NCBs have not always been strictly observant of their duties to provided requested information, or to provide it timely. The CCF has apparently had enough of that, and is holding the members countries’ NCB’s feet to the fire.

Based on the CCF’s decision letters that have been received by this practitioner, it is clear that:

  • The CCF is generally adhering to the new time limitations for issuing decisions, with some decisions being issued even earlier than required;
  • The CCF is demanding cooperation from National Central Bureaus, and when they do not respond in a timely fashion, the CCF is proceeding to make a decision based on the information it has, rather than waiting or continuing the matter until the NCB provides a full response; and
  •  The decisions being issued by the CCF are generally accompanied by a reasoned explanation, detailing the Commission’s steps and considerations taken in reaching its decision.

These factors are critical to the CCF’s efforts at demonstrating transparency, and allow applicants to both appreciate the nature of the process, as well as to recognize that they were given a “fair shake” in INTERPOL’s processes. One would hope that the more lax NCBs recognize the shift in culture at the CCF, and become more compliant as a result. Whether they do or not, the CCF will benefit from the fact that it is protecting INTERPOL’s interests in transparency and the furtherance of human rights.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

As the year begins, and changes appear to be coming to both INTERPOL and the CCF,* Red Notice Law Journal reviews some highlights from the CCF’s activity in 2016:

Third case study: a comparison of the CCF’s treatment of Russian Red Notice requests:

In today’s post, I’ll compare two very different decisions from the CCF, primarily to highlight the difference in the quality and depth of the responses that we are receiving now.  Both cases involved very complicated fact patterns and legal issues, and both required that the CCF review a significant quantity of evidence prior to making its decision.

The decision in the first case, however, was more similar to the decisions that the CCF has issued in the past: concise, to the point, and lacking the information that would allow the client to fully understand the basis of the decision or that would allow the attorney to understand how the CCF viewed each legal argument. The decision in the second case contained many of the elements that the CCF will be required to include after the rules changes take effect in March.*

September 2016 decision regarding a Russian national:

In this decision, which was received in the early fall of 2016, the CCF advised that the client’s Red Notice had been removed, and confirmed that it had communicated to all the National Central Bureaus that the data should also be removed in their respective national databases.  This was not a particularly detailed decision as relayed to us, but it was obviously a welcomed one.

December 2016 decision regarding a Russian national:

In the decision received in December of 2016, the CCF methodically detailed the background of the case, the actions that it took upon receiving the evidence supplied on behalf of our client, and the reason for the CCF’s ultimate decision to remove the Red Notice. It also supplied an official document explaining in plain language the the client was not known to INTERPOL’s files nor did his data exist within INTERPOL’s databases.  The detail supplied in this letter allows for an understanding as to the CCF’s reasoning and analysis, which is valuable for the client as well as the attorney.  The client feels that the CCF really took the time to examine and understand the case, which is very important, given that many Red Notice subjects who seek relief from the CCF have never received due process in their cases from the countries that requested the notices.  The attorney benefits, as does the CCF, by learning which arguments and which evidence were most compelling, or least compelling, in the eyes of the Commission members.

This change in the CCF’s approach to issuing its decisions is beneficial to all parties. In the next series of posts, I’ll address these changes and how they might affect practitioners and notice subjects.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Changes to the CCF will be addressed in the next post.

INTERPOL is an international information sharing agency that allows its 190 member countries to assist one another in the search for wanted persons who are suspected of having fled the jurisdiction of the requesting member country.

While the vast majority of publicized Red Notice challenges seem to arise from individual requests for removal that are prepared by the Red Notice subjects or their attorneys, some disputed Red Notices are challenged by the subject’s own country on behalf of the subject. In these instances, INTERPOL’s member countries may either approach one another directly, or may approach INTERPOL in an attempt to reach an agreement regarding the disputed Red Notice.

An example of country-led efforts at resolving INTERPOL matters arose last year, when the United States approached INTERPOL directly on behalf of several United States citizens to request that INTERPOL not issue Red Notices against them.  The U.S. argued that Egypt’s request was politically based, and INTERPOL eventually agreed, refusing to issue the notices.  INTERPOL also utilized its press release as an opportunity to increase its commitment to transparency, by offering that

Anyone seeking the truth about INTERPOL’s involvement, or otherwise, in any matter should contact the organization directly in order to ascertain the facts, rather than making statements based on ill-founded rumour and speculation.

This statement appears to have been prompted by what INTERPOL characterized as “ill informed speculation about this case and INTERPOL’s role.”  (More on this topic in the next several posts, which will focus on Fair Trials International’s recently issued report on INTERPOL.)

Certainly, member countries are free to engage directly in country-to-country efforts to resolve such matters. To some degree, the U.S. and Egypt did deal directly with one another regarding the NGO case. After the U.S. threatened to cut off significant aid to Egypt, Egypt did agree to allow the accused individuals to travel out of the country, although the charges remained pending, and the accused were later convicted.

INTERPOL does not govern the diplomatic relationships between member countries, so there is no INTERPOL-imposed means of conducting country-to-country communications outside of INTERPOL’s involvement.  However, if a member country does approach INTERPOL directly on behalf of a wanted individual, INTERPOL’s rules (Rule 135, RPD) do require that the country’s National Central Bureau (NCB) act as the country’s representative.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.

In the 2011 film version of The Adventures of Tintin:  the Secret ofthe Unicorn, part of the plot concerned two detectives who were “INTERPOL agents” investigating a crime.  The two detectives look very similar to one another and are portrayed as more or less bumbling, ineffective agents.  

This was an animated film, so some artistic license is to be expected, but it bears pointing out that INTERPOL does not send agents or detectives around the world investigating pickpockets (as in the film) or other crimes.  Rather, it receives information from the law enforcement agencies in INTERPOL member countries around the world and shares that information with other member countries to aid in the suspect’s apprehension.  

When we hear about “U.S. INTERPOL” or “the Ethiopian INTERPOL office,” we are hearing a reference to the liaison between that member country’s National Central Bureau (“NCB”) and INTERPOL, not to an office owned or operated by INTERPOL.

So it was with interest that I read yesterday that INTERPOL’s agents in Mexico had gone missing while conducting an investigation.  Multiple media outlets reported that INTERPOL’s investigating officials had left the city of Chihuahua on Monday and not reached their destination of Ciudad Juárez.  This would be odd, of course, when INTERPOL has no such officials.  

INTERPOL was quick to clarify that in Mexico, the NCB is under the authority of the Policía Federal Ministerial, a part of the Procuraduría General de la República, not INTERPOL.  Moreover, as reported here, Mexican officials have stated that not only are no INTERPOL officials missing, but no one at all is missing.

So, to be clear:  No Thompson and Thomson, no INTERPOL agents in Mexico, and no missing police officers in Mexico.  At all.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

I was recently contacted by a representative of a financial watch list compliance organization.  He had an interesting question:  How valuable is the information in INTERPOL’s website?  His goal was to determine whether the information on the website was valuable enough to provide to the subscribers to his watch list.

Of course, the determination of the value of information always depends on the intended use of the information.  With that in mind, it is important to acknowledge a few facts:

The website does not list all active Red Notices.  Only a very small percentage of Red Notices in circulation are actually published on the INTERPOL website.  Each country has the discretion to either publish a Notice on the website or to keep the Notice confined to INTERPOL’S databases so that only member country law enforcement officials can view it.  The vast majority of the time, the countries choose not to have the Notices published.  This point is illustrated in INTERPOL’s 2011 Annual report, which showed that 7,678 Red Notices had been issued during 2011. The website, however, listed Red Notices in the hundreds, not thousands, for that year.

Some listed Red Notices are no longer valid.  The 2011 Annual Report of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) contained disturbing information regarding member countries’ efforts to provide INTERPOL with updated information regarding active Red Notices.  The CCF reported that, in certain situations, National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”) generally only rarely informed the General Secretariat when a wanted person had been apprehended and had served his or her sentence.  This failure to update INTERPOL results in invalid information remaining active in INTERPOL’s databases.

Red Notices sometimes contain inaccurate charge information.  Because of the fact that member countries can now upload Red Notices directly into INTERPOL’s databases without a quality check being conducted by INTERPOL first, some information is entered invalidly.  For example, a person wanted for a traffic-related charge may be listed as being wanted for a fraud charge.  This information would naturally, and inaccurately, lead a financial institution to miscalculate the financial risk posed by such a person.

So, back to the question at hand:  is the Red Notice subject information on INTERPOL’s website of value?  The answer is a typical lawyer answer:  it depends.  If up-to-date, complete, and positively accurate information is needed, then the answer is no.  However, if the idea is to provide clients with information that gives them a starting point from which to evaluate the desirability of a given potential customer, with the understanding that clarification and correction may be necessary, then some value may exist.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

 

Yesterday, numerous media outlets reported that INTERPOL had suspended its involvement with member country Iraq.  Those reports were made here, here and here.  The purported basis for the suspension was a lack of neutrality and independence of the judiciary.  The reports also indicated that INTERPOL would continue its relationship with certain portions of the country, which would be unusual given that INTERPOL utilzes only one National Central Bureau (NCB) for each of its member countries. 

In fact, according to INTERPOL, no such activity has occurred.

Any cessation of a relationship with one of its member countries would be extraordinary for INTERPOL, particularly given that INTERPOL has a protocol in place for “disciplining” member countries that run afoul of its governing rules.  Red Notice Law Journal contacted INTERPOL yesterday in an effort to verify the reports.  In a very timely response, INTERPOL’s press office indicated that the reports were, in fact, untrue, and that the organization will seek a correction of the reports immediately.

The question remains open, then, as to whether the information reported had more to do with internal law enforcement agency disputes within Iraq, and less to do with INTERPOL itself.  Further information will be reported as it becomes available.

INTERPOL’s role in the world of law enforcement, boiled down to its bare bones, is to aid its member countries with two things:  1) alerting them to the movement of wanted persons, and 2) assisting in the apprehension of wanted persons.  The alerting is normally accomplished via a member country’s request for a Red Notice.  The assisting in apprehension normally arises when local authorities come into contact with the Red Notice subject and detain him or her.

Corruption in the Application for Red Notices

It would be news to no one that I frequently complain about the fact that INTERPOL is subject to misuse, or that it has some corrupt member countries that seek Red Notices for reasons unrelated to crime-fighting.  I’ve addressed the issues of member countries’ National Central Bureaus using their INTERPOL access to support politically motivated goals, to obtain bribes, and to circumvent basic due process. When Red Notice requests are made in the context of such impropriety, they are subject to challenges by Red Notice subjects and their attorneys.

And it remains true that INTERPOL is susceptible to abuse by its member countries who improperly seek and obtain Red Notices.  The nature of an international organization with 190 member countries, all of which have varying degrees of oversight and corruption, is that abuse of process will occur.

Corruption in the Apprehension (or Failure to Apprehend) of a Red Notice Subject

What might be surprising, though, is that when a Red Notice is properly obtained based on criminal activity, the suspect is sometimes not even detained, let alone extradited.  

Even when a member country properly obtains a Red Notice against a suspect, plenty of room remains for law enforcement officials to behave illegally for their own purposes.  A prime example of a country’s failure (or refusal) to take action on a Red Notice is provided in last week’s article by Emma Graham-Harrison’s article on Afghanistan’s treatment of a Red Notice for financial crime suspect Sherkhan Farnood.

Mr. Farnoond has been charged with fraud and theft from Kabul Bank, which he founded.  Also charged is the the bank’s CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi.  The investigation of Farnood’s financial activity in Afghanistan revealed a massive Ponzi scheme that most likely would not have gone undetected for so long if Afghan police had acted upon a Red Notice issued against Mr. Farnood by INTERPOL member country Russia.

The reason for the lack of action by Afghan authorities appears by all accounts to be based on the disproportionate level of influence held by relatively few individuals in Afghanistan.  Graham-Harrison reported that

[A]mong the bank’s creditors are a group who got $3.1m in loans but are so powerful that receivers for Kabul Bank have declined to even ask for the money back.

With such pervasive corruption, it is anticipated that most of the stolen funds will go unrecovered, leaving the citizens of Afghanistan to make up the losses.

INTERPOL’s “Disciplinary” Options for Corrupt Activity

When faced with a member country’s refusal to act on a Red Notice, INTERPOL may decide to do nothing at all. Recall that every member country’s protocol for reacting to the discovery of a Red Notice subject is different, and every case has distinct characteristics which may not make it appropriate to detain or extradite the Red Notice subject.  An individual act of refusal to detain a subject may not merit any intervention by INTERPOL.

Simultaneously, the entire aim of INTERPOL is to provide for international police cooperation.  In the new Rules on the Processing of Data (“RPD”), INTERPOL reiterates that aim, and also provides for “corrective measures” to be applied to NCBs that do not fulfill their obligations under the rules.  One of the available corrective measures is the suspension of the NCBs access rights to INTERPOL’s data system.  Another option is that the General Secretariat must remind NCBs of their INTERPOL obligations whenever necessary.

It might be time for Kabul NCB to be reminded. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

I recently read an online inquiry by a Red Notice subject who had been advised that her Red Notice was “in the process of being removed” by the prosecuting attorney.  The subject wondered how long the removal would take.

Every INTERPOL member country has its own National Central Bureau (NCB), which acts as a liaison with INTERPOL itself.  Red Notices are issued at the request of the member countries, and the information contained in the Red Notice, as well as the information contained in the files kept by INTERPOL, actually belongs to the member country that supplies that information to INTERPOL. That ownership was discussed in more detail here (back when INTERPOL had only 188 member countries.)

The requesting member country may decide to publicize the Red Notice or not, and also may decide to withdraw the information at any point.  For example, if a Red Notice is no longer needed because a person has been acquitted or an underlying charging document has been found to be invalid, the member country has the capability of instructing its NCB to arrange the removal of its information from INTERPOL’s files.

Once such a decision has been made, the removal can and should be almost immediate.  If the member country is efficient, the subject should not need an attorney to facilitate that process.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

 

The following post was originally published in March of 2011.  What a disappointment to see how Egypt has come to view its INTERPOL-related obligations. 

For those of us who are proponents of democracy, it has been mesmerizing to watch from afar the developments in Egypt recently. Like everyone, I wonder how the fledgling democracy will work for the people of Egypt, and whether they will be better off, as we all hope.

Perhaps unlike everyone except for other INTERPOL-philes, I also wonder what this means for the future of Egypt-originated Red Notices. Egypt was one of the founding member countries of INTERPOL and has a long history of both requesting and offering assistance with Red Notice subjects. How will the altered Egyptian government handle future requests for Red Notices? Will it be more or less observant of the rules designed to prevent political abuses of the judicial system?

Although the requirements for a Red Notice are inflexible and consistent, the individuals who request the Red Notices are still human, with all the biases that accompany the human condition. When we consider the information publicized by INTERPOL, we may not always consider its veracity, its reliability, or its very legality.

We should. The information publicized by INTERPOL is presumed to be accurate primarily due to the rigorous prerequisites to which the information is supposed to be subject prior to publication. When a national central bureau of any given participating country submits information to INTERPOL, the organization relies upon its General Secretariat to verify that the information is correct, but also that it was obtained legally. For the information to be gained legally, it must be obtained not only in compliance with INTERPOL’s various governing documents, but also with the requesting country’s laws.

But what happens if the requesting country doesn’t comply with its own laws when, say, issuing an arrest warrant? If an arrest warrant is issued illegally in Egypt, and Egypt’s National Central Bureau (NCB) accepts the information and forwards it to the General Secretariat of INTERPOL, that arrest warrant can be published internationally. The General Secretariat relies upon each member country’s representation that the information it submits is validly and legally obtained.

Even though the subject of the Red Notice has the ability to challenge the notice, the proper issuance of the notice is of critical significance because of the presumption of correctness which accompanies its issuance. A defensive challenge to a Red Notice begins with the presumption that the Notice has been properly issued, and that hurdle must be overcome by the challenging party. As noted by Mark Leon Goldberg of the UN Dispatch, INTERPOL is concerned with more than Julian Assange.  Most of the subjects of its Red Notices lack Assange’s considerable resources with which to challenge their Notices. If a Red Notice is issued without being truly subject to the rigors of INTERPOL’s prerequisites, not only is the integrity of INTERPOL damaged, but the person named in the Notice is substantially prejudiced before his attack on the notice ever begins.

My hope, like that of many others, is that Egypt’s people ultimately experience a democratic form of government, and one that is observant of its international, as well as domestic responsibilities to justice. Given the level of civility, respect, and civic responsibility shown by the citizens of Egypt during their protests, I’m guessing that any government that is truly reflective of the wishes of the Egyptian people will handle its international policing activities in true accordance with INTERPOL’s constitution and governing documents. 

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.

Egypt’s recent diffusion action against NGO staffers is not exactly the start we hoped to see a year ago.

 

As much as we may complain about some NCB’s (National Central Bureaus) behaving improperly with respect to their INTERPOL duties,  it’s always nice to hear that others handle their responsibilities properly.

A few months ago, I spoke with a subject of a Red Notice from Denmark who had agreed to be extradited in order to resolve the matter.  Once he was in Denmark, he closed his criminal case.  The next natural step in a perfect world would have been that Denmark’s officials, of their own accord, would have requested from Denmark’s NCB that the Notice be destroyed since it was no longer valid.  As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened, and the Notice was removed almost immediately.

More recently, a Red Notice subject with an issue arising from the United Arab Emirates was able to resolve his underlying criminal case.  The UAE ensured that its NCB destroyed the Red Notice accordingly.  That’s how INTERPOL’s tools are supposed to be used:  fairly, quickly and efficiently.  

We all know that it doesn’t always happen the way it should; this post is about giving credit where credit is due.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.