INTERPOL's Fight with Corruption: Round and Round We Go

by Estlund Law, P.A.

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.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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