With a spatula
The process of arresting and extraditing Julio Herrera Velutini and Mark Rossini, co-defendants in the federal bribery case against former Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, could result in some delay, but will not stop the court case against the former officially.
For A NEW DAY – PUERTO RICO
Herrera Velutini and Rossini were not arrested Thursday because they were outside US territory. Herrera Velutini, a Venezuelan banker and owner of Bancrédito, is in England; while Rossini, his advisor and former FBI agent; is located in Spain, federal authorities said.
Former federal prosecutor María Domínguez pointed out that a trial can go ahead even if all the defendants are never caught.
“Cases are individual, but the government (prosecutors) will always want one trial instead of three trials for reasons of judicial economy, resources, evidence and because the evidence is more conclusive,” Domínguez said.
“But if a fugitive doesn’t show up, that doesn’t stop cases like Wanda’s,” he added.
On the other hand, Domínguez pointed out that if the defendants who are in other countries are already in the process of surrender or extradition, the prosecution “(the federal court) “will request that they instead await a single trial of two or three”.
“But that doesn’t stop her (Vázquez Garced) from pleading guilty or demanding a solution other than trial,” he added.
After the arrest of Vázquez Garced, no date was set for the start of the trial.
VOLUNTARY SURRENDER OR EXTRADICTION?
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents or US law enforcement officials are not authorized to make arrests in other countries. Hence the difference that Herrera Velutini and Rossini are still in the free community, while Vázquez was arrested by the FBI yesterday at her Río Piedras home on charges of conspiracy, bribery and fraud.
Because they were out of reach of the agents, federal authorities had already begun bringing the two co-defendants to justice.
“First, (the defendants) always have the option to come to Puerto Rico voluntarily,” Chief Attorney Stephen Muldrow said yesterday at the news conference where they detailed the charges against the former governor and former Secretary of State, according to Justice. .
This scenario usually occurs after authorities have contacted the accused or their attorney to formally notify them of the indictment in a federal or state court. Muldrow declined to say yesterday when that rapprochement would take place.
When the notification is made, the defendant will notify whether or not he will travel to the United States jurisdiction for surrender.
“If they don’t (it does) there is a formal process where we are working with the governments of these countries, England and Spain, to arrest them and bring them here,” Muldrow said. “Every country has different processes.”
This is the process known as extradition, which is governed by agreements between the governments of each country and begins once the court approves the warrants. Both Spain and the United Kingdom have extradition treaties with the United States.
When Muldrow was asked when efforts to bring both defendants to justice would begin, he replied that “it’s not something we talk about in public.”
In the Vázquez case, the three arrest warrants were issued on Wednesday.
COURT AND EXECUTIVE PROCEEDINGS
The Department of Justice states on its website that “when a person is wanted in the United States, the Office of International Affairs (of the federal government) will work with prosecutors to prepare an extradition request to be filed abroad.”
When the extradition request arrives in that country, court proceedings begin. The person may be summoned to appear in court in that country or, if determined by the authorities, arrested.
But this judicial process is not intended to determine whether the person charged is guilty or not guilty. The court will only confirm the identity of the person and “determine whether the extradition request complies with the requirements of the extradition treaty and the law of the country that received the request”.
If the court rules that all is well, the case goes to that government’s executive branch, which decides “whether the person will be extradited to the United States government.”
For example, one of the most notorious extradition cases in Puerto Rico involved Áurea Vázquez Rijos, who was arrested in Spain in connection with the murder of her husband, Canadian businessman Adam Annex.
For the extradition of Vázquez Rijos, federal authorities agreed to the condition imposed by the Spanish government that the accused should no longer face the death penalty. Instead, the Spanish government’s demand that he not face life imprisonment was not met.
“Once the country that received the request (for extradition) is ready to hand over the person, its authorities will coordinate with the authorities of the requesting country to hand over the detained person,” states the federal justice portal.
DELIVERIES SOMETIMES TAKE “MONTHS OR YEARS”
If Herrera Velutini and Rossini do not surrender voluntarily, the extradition process could take months or even years.
“Depending on the country involved, both the court order and the decision of the executive branch to hand over the wanted person can be appealed at several levels,” according to the Justice Department’s website.
“The extradition of people who are abroad can take many months or even years,” he adds.
Returning to the example of the Vázquez Rijos case, federal authorities could not handle his arrest between 2008 and 2012 because he was in Italy, a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Vázquez Rijos was arrested in that country in 2013 on a trip to Spain. However, it was not handed over to the United States until September 2015.
By the end of 2014, the trial for his extradition was extended, with his defense arguing that he was facing an “unfair” charge, but prosecutors stressed that these arguments would be discussed during the trial in the country seeking extradition Spanish court He agreed.