Before making an offshore decision, it’s crucial to understand the complexities of international law, including extradition. No matter where you go, the long arm of the law can always outrun, or at least out reach you. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction and debunk the myths surrounding supposed 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 featuring the likes of Julian Assange or Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) hits the news.
As the ‘goody two shoes’ of the offshore world, Nomad Capitalist specialises in legal tax reduction, asset protection, and second citizenship strategies, so you can escape the next tax hike, war or frustrating politician whenever you want.
There are enough black swan events, such as the dot-com bubble in 2000 and the stock market crash of 1987, happening in the world to deal with without adding to your troubles by doing something that lands you in hot water or on the run.
In that spirit, we’re going to consider the whole concept of the international extradition process and misconceptions about how it works, as well as looking at specific examples of how it’s been used.
Note: None of this is legal advice. If you have a legal issue prompting you to think you need a non-extradition country, you should call a lawyer and take legal advice before going offshore. No respectable Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) program is going to approve someone genuinely worried about indictment, and nor will an offshore trust withstand legal scrutiny if you’re aware of an issue while setting it up.
So, with all 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 outlook, and general desire for law and order explain why most legal observers firmly believe the country would hand over any suspect if required.
It’s a similar story with tiny island chains like Maldives or Vanuatu. They don’t have extradition treaties with the United States and are happy to let sanctioned Russian yachts inhabit their waters. Still, they probably don’t want to ruin their reputations or hinder their access to the international financial system by harbouring some alleged criminal.
The lesson here is that extraditing someone doesn’t require an actual extradition treaty – a treaty just makes the process more straightforward. That makes the concept of non-extradition treaties somewhat irrelevant because any country can turn someone over.
Here at Nomad Capitalist, one of our key specialities is working on international tax cases. It’s our core business, so we’re well-placed to judge international tax trends. In our opinion, there’s an undeniable trend in this sector: countries are working more and more closely with each other. Gone are the days of rogue actors who, point blank refuse to cooperate with international partners.
Just look at the evolution of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Common Reporting Standard (CRS) bank information sharing or the new Global Minimum Tax: the world’s financial powers are working more closely than ever before, and they’ve reached a consensus that hiding money is wrong. It’s our experience they take largely the same approach to alleged criminality.
Countries With No US Extradition Treaty – Theory vs. Practice
Take the example of a Nigerian citizen named Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, aka ‘Hushpuppi’.
Abbas was living in Dubai, where he was alleged to be running a number of online scams while flaunting a luxury lifestyle complete with private jets and expensive vacations.
The United States and United Arab Emirates (UAE) governments came together to investigate Abbas’ crime ring. When the US government finally indicted Abbas and his associates, the Dubai Police simply arrested them and handed them over. Abbas was later convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering.
Abbas’ indictment, extradition and conviction all happened despite the absence of a formal US extradition treaty with the UAE. It was a rude wake-up call for many people who mistakenly thought the UAE was a ‘non-extradition country’.
Dubai has gone from being a punchline in the 2000s to a serious business destination. The UAE is increasingly, and rightfully, sensitive about its international image. Anyone thinking they can hide their criminality in Dubai needs to reassess.
Moreover, the UAE government recently agreed to impose a 9% corporate tax to keep pace with international tax reform. If they’re willing to charge taxes, they’re certainly not going to harbour someone fleeing the law.
High-Profile Extradition Cases
Elsewhere, France does have an extradition treaty with the United States, yet has been the home of Hollywood star Roman Polanski for years despite being wanted in the US. In 1977, Polanski pled guilty to a US court on serious assault charges but fled the country for his native France after learning the trial judge might not honour the plea bargain deal he made as part of his guilty plea.
France is extremely reluctant to extradite its citizens under any circumstances, so Polanski’s been free to continue living and working there ever since. Occasionally, he even travels to nearby countries, including Poland, where he holds citizenship by descent. From there, he was able to travel between France, Poland and Switzerland. Legal attempts to extradite him to the US from both Switzerland and Poland have failed, with the Polish Supreme Court dismissing an attempt by its own government to extradite him as recently as 2018. This is despite an extradition treaty already existing between the United States and Poland.
The late Jeffrey Epstein’s associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, lived in the United States, so no extradition was needed when she was arrested. But she was denied bail in part amid concerns that, as a citizen of three different countries, the US, UK and France, she was a flight risk.
Though it’s unlikely the UK would have refused to extradite her if requested to do so by the US, extradition from France is much less likely. Ultimately, despite an offer by her lawyers to post a US$ 20 million guarantee, retain 24-hour armed guards and ‘immediately’ renounce both her UK and French citizenships, she was denied bail.
At Nomad Capitalist, we advocate having three citizenships for diversification, but our advice is strictly intended for people operating legally. Still, after the Maxwell case, those looking for a downside of holding multiple citizenships can add ‘harder to get bailed out of jai’ to the list.
For non-citizens, some European countries like France may demand certain conditions, such as guarantees that suspects won’t be tortured, are met before extradition is granted.
Even non-extradition countries can decide to send a suspect back if it helps them politically. When Vladimir Putin was rumoured to be plotting an escape plan from Russia in the event of losing the war in Ukraine, it was speculated he didn’t consider China because, despite their political openness to Russia, he viewed the Chinese government as, ultimately, pragmatic 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. For example, it’s believed Brazil doesn’t extradite its citizens: that’s only partially correct – Brazil doesn’t extradite ‘natural born’ citizens. Any child born on Brazilian soil is a citizen by the law of ‘jus soli’, meaning ‘right of the soil’, or birthright citizenship, so while you can set up your future child for a life as a potential outlaw, 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 US military whistleblower Edward Snowden, who found himself stuck in Russia and seeking asylum in 2013 after leaking National Security Agency (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 in the current climate, it probably wouldn’t implement it even if it 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 risk losing it if you lie during the application process. You can’t just move to Russia or France and Brazil and be granted citizenship and faster methods of obtaining citizenship involve deep due diligence and taking an oath that you’re not under investigation for past or present wrong-doing. If it’s later discovered you lied about this, that would be grounds to have your citizenship cancelled.
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-naturalisation qualification years later.
Another overlooked fact about non-extradition countries is that extradition isn’t 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 indicted by the United States.
Bankman-Fried could have 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 recognise 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 cancelled and he would have had no legal basis to stay in the Bahamas, which would have shipped him to his only country of citizenship and, hence, the country where he used to live… the United States.
Countries Without Extradition
If the reality of the extradition process hasn’t turned you off searching for non-extradition countries, consider the places you can go:
- War-torn Ukraine
- Sanctioned Belarus
- African nations like the Congo, Burkina Faso or Djibouti
Admittedly, there are also livable countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia, which we’ve long recommended for asset protection.
But places like Cambodia are unlikely to have any interest in the bad press that goes with hiding a suspected fraudster – it could be political suicide for them.
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.
At Nomad Capitalist, we’ve spent over a decade trying to rehabilitate the image of the offshore industry. We believe entrepreneurs and investors have a right to legally reduce their taxes and protect their assets, but we recognise there are many shady characters out there.
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 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 landed ourselves in trouble precisely because we go to great lengths to play by the rules and weed out bad apples.
We take pride in being viewed and sometimes derided as the ‘goody two shoes’ of the offshore world. As such, we don’t lose sleep over the issue of non-extradition countries, despite the general public’s almost unshakable belief that 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 vast world for business in the 21st century. We work with a number of international investment options that refuse to accept US investors, not because they’re dishonest but because they anticipate that the relevant compliance work would be too hard.
So, if you have a legitimate product or service and are worried about being compliant, take our advice and ‘go where you’re treated best’ by starting that business in a more friendly regulatory environment.
Everything we do here at Nomad Capitalist is about transparency and following the law – 100% of the time. We create holistic strategies for high-net-worth individuals to protect all their assets and freedoms. Apply to become a client today, and we’ll help you go where you’re treated best.