Almost a decade ago, we wrote an article about a list of non-extradition countries. Lists of extradition treaties are readily available from sources like the US government, and non-extradition countries are often mentioned on CNN or by the BBC whenever the latest international criminal story – from Julian Assange to Sam Bankman-Fried – hits the news.
As the “goody two-shoes” of the offshore world, Nomad Capitalist specializes in legal tax reduction strategies, asset protection, and second citizenship, so you can escape the next tax hike, war, or just stupid politicians whenever you want.
There are enough black swan events happening in the world to prepare for, without adding to your troubles by doing something to land yourself on the run.
In that spirit, we wanted to update this article to talk about the extradition process itself, misconceptions about how it works, and to share specific examples.
Note: None of this is legal advice; if you have a legal issue causing you to think you need a non-extradition country you should call a lawyer and deal with that before going offshore. No respectable citizenship by investment program is going to approve someone genuinely worried about indictment, nor is an offshore trust going to withstand legal scrutiny if you’re aware of an issue while setting it up.
With that in mind, let’s focus on one little-known fact: extradition treaties don’t really matter.
Why Extradition Treaties Don’t Matter
Take the Eurasian nation of Georgia, where we’ve done a lot of business. While Georgia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, the country’s small size, westward leaning, and general desire for law and order explains why our lawyers all think they would hand a suspect over.
While tiny island chains like Maldives or Vanuatu don’t have extradition treaties with the United States and are happy to let sanctioned Russian yachts inhabit their waters, they probably don’t want to ruin their reputation and access to the international financial system by harboring some random alleged criminal.
You don’t need an extradition treaty to extradite someone; it just makes the process more straightforward. That makes the idea of non-extradition treaties somewhat irrelevant because any country can turn someone over.
We work with a lot of international tax cases in our business, and one undeniable trend is that countries are working more closely with each other. Gone are the days of many rogue actors.
Just look at FATCA and CRS bank information sharing or the new Global Minimum Tax; the world has decided that hiding money is wrong and all got together. We believe they take largely the same approach to alleged criminals.
Countries With No US Extradition Treaty – Theory vs. Practice
Take the recent example of a Nigerian citizen named Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, aka “Hushpuppi.”
Abbas was living in Dubai, where he and fellow Nigerians were alleged to be running a number of online scams while flaunting a private jet lifestyle.
The US and UAE governments cooperated to investigate the “crime ring”, and when the US government indicated Abbas and his associates, the Dubai Police simply picked them up and handed them over.
Abbas was later convicted sentenced to 11 years in prison, and the US government issued one of their typical breathless press releases about it.
This all came in the absence of a formal US extradition treaty with the UAE, and people mistakenly thinking it’s a “non-extradition country.”
Anyone thinking they’ll hide out in Dubai is sorely mistaken, given how sensitive the UAE is to its image, and rightfully so. Dubai has gone from being a punchline in the 2000s to a serious business destination.
The UAE government recently agreed to impose a 9% corporate tax to keep peace with international tax lobbyists. If they’re willing to charge taxes, they don’t even need to get along, they’re certainly not going to harbor someone fleeing the law.
High-Profile Extradition Cases
Meanwhile, France does have an extradition treaty with the United States, yet has been the home of Hollywood star Roman Polanski for years. Polanski served a few weeks in jail in the 1970s before leaving the United States when he learned a judge may not honor the plea bargain he made and returned to his native France.
France has a policy of not extraditing its citizens for pretty much any reason, and he’s been able to continue living and working freely ever since. Polanski occasionally traveled to nearby countries including Poland – where he holds citizenship by descent – and has on a few occasions been subject to an extradition process there. In each case, the governments of these European countries decided not to extradite him.
That said, Polanski being a citizen of Poland – which does extradite its citizens – did not help him as lower courts initially wanted to extradite him to the United States with the seeming goal of having a good image.
Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell lived in the United States so no extradition was needed when she was arrested, but she was denied bail in part based on being a citizen of three countries.
While the UK is likely not a non-extradition country even for its own citizens, the judge in the case perhaps realized that if Maxwell returned to France, she would likely be untouchable. Maxwell went so far as to promise to renounce her British and French citizenship “immediately” if granted bail, but it didn’t work.
We advocate having three citizenships for diversification, in part because we intend to give advice only to people operating legally. However, for those looking for a downside of holding multiple citizenships, you can add “harder to get bailed out of jail when arrested for international sex trafficking” to the list.
For non-citizens, some European countries like France may demand conditions are met before extradition is agreed to, namely that suspects won’t be tortured and that the death penalty won’t be applied. Besides the death penalty seeming more pleasant than decades in a US prison, a large country like the United States has little need to honor any rules they agree to, even though they often do. It’s not like France is going to launch a military invasion to stop one guy from being waterboarded.
Even non-extradition countries can decide to send a suspect back if it helps them politically. When Vladimir Putin was alleged to be plotting an escape plan from Russia were he to lose the war in Ukraine, it is said he didn’t consider China because despite their political openness to Russia, he viewed them as negotiators who would turn him over to international authorities for the right price.
Non-Extradition Country Myths
There are other myths about non-extradition countries, such as that Brazil doesn’t extradite its citizens. That’s only partially correct: they don’t extradite natural born citizens. Any child born on Brazilian soil is a citizen by “jus soli”, so while you can set up your future child for a life as a potential scofflaw, it’s too late for you unless you were born there.
Being a citizen does help avoid extradition in a limited number of cases. One well-known example is that of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who found himself stuck in Russia and seeking asylum in 2013 after leaking NSA documents to the press.
Snowden eventually received Russian permanent residence and later obtained Russian citizenship. Russia has no extradition treaty with the US or other western nations and probably wouldn’t bother even if they did. Still, Snowden’s citizenship gives him an extra layer of protection in that Russia, as a practice, does not extradite its citizens.
We highly recommend having dual citizenship, but even if you were able to obtain a second passport, you would risk losing it if you lied during the process. You can’t just move to Russia or France and Brazil and get granted citizenship, and faster methods of obtaining citizenship involve deep due diligence and swearing that you’re not under investigation or doing anything wrong. If it’s later found out you were doing something wrong and lied about it, that is grounds to have your citizenship canceled.
Even moving to France or Brazil or Russia and lying about your activities during the residence process could be grounds to cancel your citizenship by naturalization years later.
Another overlooked fact about non-extradition countries is that extradition isn’t even necessarily required. Take the recent case of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and a US citizen who was living in the Bahamas when he was indicted by the United States.
Bankman-Fried could have quite possibly pushed to be granted exceptional citizenship given his high status in the country, but as far as we know, he was not a Bahamian citizen, perhaps because the Bahamas does not recognize dual citizenship.
That created a liability for him, though: one legal scholar suggested that the United States could simply advise the Bahamian government that “SBF” was wanted by the law. Almost any residence permit is conditional on its holder not being a criminal or even being charged with a crime.
Once SBF was charged, his residence permit could have been canceled and he would have no legal basis to stay in the Bahamas, who would ship him to his only country of citizenship and hence the country whose passport he used to live there… the United States.
Countries Without Extradition
If the reality of the extradition process hasn’t turned you off to looking for non-extradition countries, consider the places you can go. War-torn Ukraine, sanctioned Belarus, African nations like the Congo or Burkina Faso or Djibouti. Yes, there are livable countries like Vietnam or Indonesia, as well as Cambodia, where we’ve long recommended investing.
Again, Cambodia and many others like it likely have no interest in the bad press of hiding a suspected fraudster; it could be political suicide for them. Even if they did, do you want to live out your days in the rice fields of Laos?
If you’ve made it this far and are upset that we didn’t provide a list of non-extradition countries for your escape, that was kind of the goal. We’ve spent over a decade trying to rehabilitate the image of the offshore industry because we believe entrepreneurs and investors have a right to reduce their taxes and protect their assets.
The last thing any of us need are criminals sullying the idea of global citizenship and stopping honest people from pursuing this lifestyle. It’s so much easier just to play by the rules and stay out of trouble.
In over a decade of running Nomad Capitalist, we’ve never been singled out for a tax audit or gotten in trouble precisely because we go to great lengths to play by the rules and weed out bad apples. As such, we’re not worried about non-extradition countries despite the general public thinking illegal numbered bank accounts in Switzerland are still a thing.
If you haven’t done anything wrong and are just paranoid, consider that there is a wide world for business in the 21st century. We work with a number of international investment opportunities that refuse to accept US investors, not because they’re dishonest but because they realize the compliance work would be too hard.
If you have a legitimate product or service and are worried about staying in compliance, you can always go where you’re treated best and start that business in a more friendly regulatory environment.