Legal support in international prosecution and extradition.

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Interview: INTERPOL wanted, whether it is so dangerous and what to do

В. Zienkovich - Hello! Today we have Ales Michalevic, the director of the law firm, as our guest.

А. Michalevic - Good afternoon!

V. Zenkovich - Ales, your specialisation is legal support of persons wanted internationally in connection with criminal prosecution, but in cases when the objects of these prosecutions do not consider themselves guilty. That is, they believe that it is all politically motivated and the root cause is not a criminal offence. Tell me, is this a profitable business?

А. Michalevic - Of course, it is a profitable business. If we talk about advocacy and defence of people as a business, the clients are becoming more and more prosecution motivated. Not always political, but motivated, when a person is not guilty, but he is simply persecuted because he was a competitor, for example. Or an official who has become unnecessary because he can compete with someone else.

V. Zenkovich - Citizens of which countries are your clients? As far as I understand, you have an office in Vilnius, Prague, somewhere, probably in some other countries?

А. Michalevic - Our main office is in Vilnius, but we work all over the European Union. The whole Schengen zone plus Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and other countries. Basically, more than half of our clients are Russians, but of course, there are also Azerbaijanis, Belarusians, often from Central Asia and even Iran, sometimes also from Latin America or China.

V. Zenkovich - Do you encounter the practice of declaring people wanted mainly through Interpol or are there any other tools?

А. Michalevic - Apart from Interpol, there is a classic tool - bilateral relations. That is, no one prevents, for example, the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus to appeal directly to any European country with a request to extradite a particular person. But it is troublesome, costly, so they usually announce it to Interpol. And within Interpol what is dangerous is either a Red Notice or so-called Diffusion, when, for example, Russia sends a request to a group of countries. Or all the countries of Europe, or to the countries of Western Europe, or to the countries of the south and so on. There is such a possibility within Interpol to ask only specific countries to extradite a person.

V. Zenkovich - You know, probably, for most citizens, for most people, the very fact of being wanted by Interpol for a particular person - well, that's the end of everything. It means that that's it - they will get you from everywhere and what to do, where to run to? Is it true that if a person is wanted by Interpol, they will find him or her anywhere and your song is over?

А. Michalevic - Well, the answer to the question "will they or won't they" can often be known exactly. For example, as Russia knows about many people that they are in London. But this does not help Russia in any way, because they were in London and remain in London. Of those clients who came to us on their own feet, meaning those who came to us while they were still at liberty, when they had not yet been detained, not a single person has gone to Russia. I hope that they will not leave. And this means that in principle it is possible to protect. It is especially easy to defend when a person realising that he is in a risk group (and in Russia, for example, or in Belarus, any official, any businessman is almost always in a risk group that he will be subjected to a motivated criminal prosecution), if he prepares for it in advance and even if you just start doing it when you already know that a criminal case has been opened against you - you can defend yourself, there are mechanisms for this. In a nutshell, I will say this. The more legal a country is, the higher the level of the country you go to - as a rule, the easier it is to defend yourself. But there are exceptions. For example, a Russian has a fairly good chance of defending himself in the same Ukraine, because the Ukrainian state does not trust the Russian state, it is simply a question of trust between the countries.

V. Zenkovich - So, in these international agreements, the immediate political conjuncture, i.e. the degree of relations between the respective states, still plays a very important role?

А. Michalevic - Very important, of course. Extradition itself is one of the most politically motivated parts of jurisprudence. It depends on how good the relations are and these relations can change. For example, Turkey's relations with Russia, which instantly go from hatred to friendship and from friendship to hatred. It is clear that both countries are far from being democratic and a lot of things are decided on the level of personal relations between bodies, personal relations between presidents. And in this case some specific people are a bargaining chip. When it is necessary to show, for example, that the UAE has signed an agreement with Russia and it is necessary to show that this agreement is beginning to be implemented. Boom! And we give away a couple of people at once, and then we can see what we have done.

V. Zenkovich - Have you ever managed to fend off a client at the initial stage? That is, to appeal against the wanted notice itself?

А. Michalevic - Very often we appeal against the wanted notice itself. But we do not deal with the situation inside Russia. That is, when, for example, a decision is made to elect a preventive measure in the form of detention in custody, commonly known as "arrest in absentia". This is not our subject. It is very difficult to work in Russia, as we assess it as not a fully rule-of-law state. Or let's put it this way - not a state governed by the rule of law at all. But in Interpol itself, it is possible, for example, to block a person's presence in the database quite easily. Distribution in the base before the application is considered. If before Russia has filed a person with Interpol, we write there that Russia is going to file and we will appeal against this filing, then we will have 9-10 months after the person is announced, while this person will be seen by all countries. While they send him to like a full Interpol base and he's going to be in trouble. That is, we will have time to appeal and with a fairly high probability of success, a lot of people who we appeal to Interpol are then removed from that base. Which doesn't mean that everything is fine, everything is perfect. Because, as I said, the country can always appeal directly, knowing where he will be. Or just as often they track airline ticket databases, find out where the person will be arriving and departing from. So there are lawyers like us, for example, like our bureau, who protect people, but there are also lawyers who, on the contrary, catch people. Who work for the security services of banks to find someone. So you have to remember that you can be caught not just by the state, but also purposefully find out where you will be. On the contrary, not to file you with Interpol, but to wait until you come to the country that is guaranteed to extradite you to Russia, well, for example, Cyprus. Almost always Cyprus extradites everyone to Russia. There are rare exceptions when you manage to protect someone, but in general Cyprus extradites almost everyone to Russia. That is, you can wait, on the contrary, when a person is in a country with a good jurisdiction from the point of view of the wanted country and detain him there.

V. Zenkovich - Listen, I just thought about it now, it's like Russian roulette! Let's say a lawyer says to a client: "That's it! We have removed you from the red base!". And then the person makes some kind of movement to another country, goes to the border guard at the airport and realises that the lawyer told him that he is no longer on the list, and now he will give his passport and...?

А. Michalevic - And he may end up on the list. This is especially the case, for example, in Germany. Because Germany does not trust the Interpol database. It checks each person in the Interpol database individually and then includes them in the Bundeskriminalamt database of the Federal Criminal Police. And it turns out that on the one hand a person in the German database will appear a little later than in Interpol itself. That is, he is already in Interpol itself, and he still has 2-3 weeks of backlash, when he can leave Germany. But, on the other hand, this works in the opposite direction, when a person has already been excluded from Interpol, but for some time he will still be in the German database. And naturally, if he is detained, the Germans can, without consulting Interpol, ask the Russian Federation directly: "Do you need such a person?". And the Russian Federation will answer, "Yes, of course, we need him." And that's it, Interpol is gone, and direct relations between Germany and Russia have been established.

Or, for example, Turkey does not delete all the old Interpol bulletins as a matter of principle. This means that everyone who has ever been in Interpol in the last 10-20 years and on whom an Interpol bulletin was issued a red circular, even if it was removed after a week, he will be in the Turkish database virtually always. And he will always have problems in Turkey - he will be detained, he will be talked to, dealt with. Most likely he will be released after checking that he is not in the current database, but, on the other hand, nobody prevents you from simply calling the Russian embassy and asking if you need such a person.

V. Zenkovich - And what is the purpose of your visit to a five-star resort? Maybe you are hatching some kind of plans? I see. And defence against extradition is probably the most complicated part of your activity, I think so. It's a complicated procedure in itself, is it possible? When everything is clear, when a person is wanted and they want to extradite him, is it possible to fight him off in some way?

А. Michalevic - It depends on the country. Of course, it is possible. Let's start with the fact that any bodies, and first of all Russian or Belarusian investigative bodies, very often draw up documents with a lot of violations and mistakes. If there are such mistakes, it can certainly help even in those countries that are ready to extradite. I was talking about Cyprus, which is ready to extradite to Russia, but if the Russian Federation draws up the documents incorrectly... Cyprus, after all, is a country based on the British legal system. And there, the judge will certainly say that you have incorrectly drawn up the documents. For example, you didn't send the documents in time. We gave you 40 days to send them to us, but you did not send them - key materials in the criminal case. Accordingly, we refuse to extradite you.

That is, there are chances, but the most important thing to remember is that in extradition proceedings no substantive evidence is examined. That is, the fact that a person will say: "they say against me that I did it, but in fact he is lying" - the judge will never be interested in this, in any country in the world. It is necessary to find formal grounds. For example, such a formal ground can be the fact that the offence is a given act, not just an article. For example, the article may be fraud, which is in any code of any country. But if a person, for example, is accused of giving a loan for ten months, and on the eleventh month he stopped giving it, and the Russian justice considers that he deliberately misled by giving a loan for ten months, and on the eleventh month, when the crisis happened, he stopped giving it. In the law of most countries, such an act would not constitute fraud. It would be a purely economic relationship between two entities. And any normal extradition judge will say: "go to the economic court in Russia and sort out who, who and what did not give what to whom and do not need to turn this into a criminal case". As it is very often, by the way, in Russia and Belarus, and in many other countries - economic relations are often translated into criminal ones. There is even a special term for this: "to go through the criminal law".

That is, extradition can be defended, there are many options, but it is certainly better to choose a country with a higher standard of human rights. It is clear that Russian prisons, for example, are a shock for Norway. Russian prisons are not so terrible for Lithuania, because Lithuania does not have so much money to create a standard in prisons that would really meet the highest standards. So it would be easier for Norway to refuse extradition because the conditions in which the person would be held would be, from Norway's point of view, inhumane. It could amount to torture or inhuman conditions of detention.

V. Zenkovich - I know that there are some international legal mechanisms for the restoration of violated human rights. What are these mechanisms and how often have you been able to win in the relevant struggle?

А. Michalevic - The Interpol File Control Commission is one of them. It is one of the bodies of international control. It is not judicial, it is an administrative body, but we can call it, in a sense, as a court within Interpol.

There are also such well-known bodies as the European Court of Human Rights, which is not available, for example, to citizens of Belarus. But it is available in case a Belarusian is extradited from any European country. Not only from the EU, but even, for example, from Georgia, Ukraine, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro. Because these countries are members of the Council of Europe, respectively, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. And they are forbidden to extradite from these countries to those countries where a person may be subjected to torture in a detention centre or torture in principle if he is extradited.

There is a UN Human Rights Committee whose decisions are essentially advisory, but I always advise clients to go to such international jurisdictions if there is a chance to get a decision even after 2-4-5 years. There are a lot of such bodies, for example, the European Court of Human Rights, it is very difficult to get a decision faster than 3 years in most cases, and sometimes it can be 4 or 5 years. But I always advise, we call it "case development", when you have solved an issue in one area and it helps you in another. Because some facts are considered already proven through decisions of the European Court of Human Rights or through decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee. Therefore, such international jurisdictions make sense. Just like, for example, I had a specific case - there is a dispute between two firms in the Russian Federation. Stockholm arbitration heard the dispute and decided that one side was right. But the other side ordered its counterparties through "criminal law". It initiated a criminal case, filed a wanted notice, the director of the firm ran away, and so on. It is clear that the decision of the Stockholm arbitration will have a serious enough force from the point of view of Interpol or other international bodies, because everyone will realise that from the point of view of economic relations this party was right.

V. Zenkovich - Please tell me, does media support have any significance in your work? Well, here is a person, for example, your client, and certain media are mobilised in the country where he is staying and in the country that is requesting extradition. The local press is stirred up, it doesn't even matter which way it goes. Does what is commonly called press hype make any difference?

А. Michalevic - Of course it matters. I always say to my clients that there is not much PR and it makes sense to show the publicity of a case as much as possible, even if this person does not always look perfect and good as a result. Because a lot of people who refuse to be extradited, for example from the EU, are very bad people. For example, it could be Saddam Hussein's right hand man, who ran away to Denmark and who cannot be extradited to Iraq today, because there he will be simply put on a stake or shot and tortured before that. So PR actually helps a lot, but to my surprise, the vast majority of clients don't want any mention of them at all. We always have a very strict non-disclosure policy in our contract. Today, as I was going to this broadcast, I looked at those clients who have consented to us talking about them. That's literally 6 people who said, "Yes, please say you're our lawyers." Most of the clients agree to pay a lot of money to ensure their non-disclosure and that we never talk about it at all. And in general, most officials or businessmen (we mainly defend businessmen, but also officials), they want to forget about the extradition process, about Interpol, about all this like a terrible dream. And they, on the contrary, ask: "No, just don't say that we were there, try to remove all reminders about it". This is also due to the fact that a person can get into the world databases used by banks. And very often such a person may receive a "chain letter" from all the banks where he has accounts, asking him to close the account and take the money. Or to transfer the money to another account, which is even more difficult, because it has to be opened somewhere else. Because being in Interpol is often interpreted as guilt. That is, you were in Interpol, you were wanted to appear before a Russian unjust court, but it is considered that you are already kind of guilty, so it is easier for the bank to refuse just in case, in order not to incur reputational costs. That's why most clients don't want any PR. They want to quietly resolve their issues. Maybe it is because they are so used to solving their issues before.

V. Zenkovich - Can you draw a portrait - who is your average client? By what articles? Age? Country?

А. Michalevic - This is usually a man, 35-50 years old. Article 159 Part 4 Fraud on an especially large scale. Because in Russia very often any relationship is signed under fraud, no matter what happens. And the Russian authorities like to apply this article, as judges for some reason believe the authorities. In general, in the West, to prove fraud, you have to prove the original intent. That is, that from the very beginning, for example, the person intended not to repay the loan. Or he was not going to fulfil the contract from the very beginning. The mere non-performance of the contract does not prove that there was an intention to non-perform it from the very beginning. And then we come back to the portrait, as I have already said - 35-50 years old, with higher education, a citizen of the Russian Federation, well, that's where the main characteristics end.

V. Zenkovich - We're already receiving questions from viewers: "Have many Belarusians turned to you since last August?".

А. Michalevic - We just help many Belarusians who participated in the protests for free. We just help with travelling abroad so that people know where to turn there. I think that if we talk about the number, it's more than a few dozen.

V. Zenkovich - And how are their cases dealt with?

А. Michalevic - It's clear that in today's conditions all the neighbours have abruptly stopped extraditing people to Belarus. If before August, for example, Poles or Lithuanians could easily extradite someone to Belarus, now, of course, Poland and Lithuania simply do not extradite anyone to Belarus. Even in Ukraine, it is quite easy to defend a Belarusian today. That's why Belarusians today have their own 5 minutes when they are not extradited.

V. Zenkovich - And there is no difference - is it a well-known politician or just an unknown person?

А. Michalevic - From the point of view of Interpol, of course, it is easier to protect a well-known politician. From the point of view of extradition, today, I think it is easy to protect any Belarusian in Lithuania or Poland. And if he has minimal evidence that he took part in the actions, that he actively participated in something, helped in something and so on, then I think that practically any citizen of Belarus will be refused extradition today.

V. Zenkovich - Please make a rating of the countries issuing to Russia and Belarus and not issuing, at least 3...

А. Michalevic - I should say that there is a wanted database of the CIS, it is maintained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. And it includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and all of Central Asia. So, accordingly, any of these countries will be extremely deplorable, and, as a rule, there will be extradition, if Russia requests it, or Belarus requests it. If from other countries, for example, from EU countries, my anti-rating is probably Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, but also Spain and Portugal are in it, but just a little bit better. And the rating in terms of European countries (if we do not take Britain, it is due to a very strong old and stable legal system, probably on the first place) is Sweden, Norway, and then you can argue - it depends on what country of extradition.

V. Zenkovich - A question about your presence in the Interpol databases.

А. Michalevic - I started with that - I am a lawyer myself and know many foreign languages, so when Belarus filed an application to Interpol in 2011, I myself and with the help of Fair Trials International, a well-known organisation with which I cooperate now, we filed an application to Interpol. And since 2012 there is no information on me in Interpol.

V. Zenkovich - Who are these 6 people who allowed you to talk about them?

А. Michalevic - These are, for example, several Azerbaijanis, Riad Aliyev is one of the businessmen, owner of a private university in Azerbaijan. This is a Russian who was recently refused extradition from Poland, he is a well-known businessman from Nizhny Novgorod. And Poland recently refused to extradite him. These are several people who were prosecuted under the classic article 159 part 4.

By the way, we have a principle - we defend either under economic articles (including fraud, which we consider to be an economic article), or if it is some heavy articles, we take up the case only if we know that it is not true, that it is really hung on a person. That is, if a person simply accused of murder comes to us, then, as a rule, he will be refused, we will not work with him. But, of course, if it is a well-known person, a public figure, who simply wants to compromise in this way, then of course we will work with him. If we believe that it is not true, if we have studied the materials and realise that there is no evidence of his guilt in the case, then we are ready to take it on. It's the same for drug cases, for example. In our practice, there were literally a couple of cases where we knew that drugs were planted and the person had nothing to do with drugs, in which case we could take on the case. This is because we don't want to have the image of someone who is just defending for money, whether they are completely guilty or not. That is, we want either a person to be really innocent if he is accused of ordinary crimes, or cases with economic crimes, it is clear that in Russia there is probably not a single businessman who has not broken the law in one way or another, because the whole system is created in such a way that it is impossible not to break the law. But in economic offences, as a rule, we take on almost all clients.

V. Zenkovich - Ales, everything to do with Interpol, with the international wanted, well, it seems to me that for ordinary people it is a different world, something covered in fog, nobody really understands anything. Maybe you can tell us about the most typical misconceptions that you encounter in your practice - people's lack of understanding of the essence of the issue and how to behave. Is this what you encounter most often?

А. Michalevic - What we encounter most often is that, for example, a person pretends that he or she does not know that there is a criminal case. That is such a classic sticking his head in the sand: "Well, since I do not know about what is going on, when I am arrested, I will say that I was simply not informed and I will be released. No, they won't. In other words, from day one, if you are abroad and you find out that there is a criminal case against you, hire a lawyer. Send this Russian lawyer to know how the process is going, to control this process. This will allow you to know the time you have for the defence, to prepare everything.

V. Zenkovich - And the time to leave Germany in time.

А. Michalevic - The time to leave Germany in time, or first of all, at least to leave Russia or Belarus in time, is the most important thing. Because when people from Russia come to us: "Good afternoon, I am in Russia now and I don't know how to leave". We tell them: "Sorry, we can't help you, because we don't know where passports are not checked at the border, and even more so, we don't know where it is possible to leave through corruption, for money, and how it can be done. This is not our speciality. We should be approached when a person has already left. Or you can turn to us while you are still in Russia, but before you have the opportunity to leave.

The second very common misconception is when people think that they will make, for example, a residence permit in Spain, Portugal or Greece and this will help them to protect themselves from extradition. It not only does not help, it, on the contrary, creates additional problems. Because, for example, a person after he has received a residence permit in Spain, he can make it so that he is detained on extradition in Norway, but he will never be able to normally apply for refugee status in Norway, because Norway will have the right to send him to Spain to consider the issue of refugee status, for example. So, accordingly, the person thinks that he has helped himself, that he has a residence permit, long-term, for two years, but in fact it would be better for him to have a multiple-entry Norwegian or Swedish visa and it would help him much more.

And there are actually a lot of such misconceptions. When, for example, people think: "I have a permanent residence permit in Cyprus!" But this will not help in any way, on the contrary, it will rather hinder. Unless a person flees in time to the northern part of Cyprus, the unrecognised part. The so-called "Turkish occupied part", it is not in Interpol, of course. And there, if they give residence permits, you can live forever. Well, relatively forever, until that country wants to kick you out of there, extend your residence permit and put you on a plane and send you out of there. And going back to the fact that there are quite warm relations between Turkish and Russian intelligence services, the Russians can ask for assistance in extradition from northern Cyprus.

So there are actually a lot of misconceptions. I compare this to the fact that, for example, we are ordinary citizens, not doctors, we all realise that we may have cancer. But we keep that thought away from us. "Well, it's probably not us, it's not me." I can say the same thing about Interpol. Everybody realises that there may be problems, but everybody hopes that there won't be. And this is, of course, a very serious misconception. Because if you prepare for something from the very beginning, if you understand that you are in a risk group, and I come back to the fact that every official, especially high-level officials and every businessman who has normal turnover, or who works in some areas, such as development, where he collects money from citizens, and someone can make claims against him. It is desirable for everyone in the risk group to prepare in advance for such things as Interpol and extradition proceedings. This is very important because time is always one of the very important resources. If there is a lot of time but little money, you can do something. If there is little time and, God forbid, little money, then it will be extremely difficult to do something and solve the issue of extradition and Interpol.

V. Zenkovich - Thank you very much. International lawyer Ales Michalevic was with us.

А. Michalevic - Thank you very much.

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