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Andrew Henderson

Founder of Nomad Capitalist and the world’s most sought-after expert on global citizenship.

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Why Non-Extradition Countries Won’t Save You

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Thinking about moving your business or assets offshore? Then, it’s wise to first get your head around the tangled web of international law, especially extradition.

 But even before you immerse yourself in that, take note that no matter how far you go, you can’t outrun the long arm of the law.

 With that warning firmly ringing in your ears, we’ll try to set the record straight and bust some myths about the so-called non-extradition havens.

 Myth busting is important because extradition isn’t just legal jargon; it’s a topic full of jargon, fables and outright lies all mixed up with a generous dollop of misinformation.

 Countries with and without extradition treaties aren’t difficult to find. Lists of extradition treaties are readily available from sources like the US Government and non-extradition countries are often mentioned on global news outlets whenever the latest international criminal story featuring the likes of Julian Assange or Sam Bankman-Fried hits the news.

 Clearly, non-extradition countries are a big deal in the modern world, so let’s separate fact from fiction and debunk a few of the myths about them. As the ‘goody two shoes’ of the offshore world, Nomad Capitalist is ideally placed to delve into the subject. After all, we specialise in legal tax reduction, asset protection, and second citizenship strategies, allowing clients to escape the next tax hike, war, or tedious politician whenever they want. 

There are enough black swan events, like stock market or financial crashes, without adding to your troubles by doing something that lands you in hot water. Still, if that were to happen, it makes sense to know your options. 

In that spirit, we’re going to consider the whole concept of international extradition and tackle misconceptions about how it works with specific examples.  

Note: None of this is legal advice. If you have a legal issue that prompts you to think you need a non-extradition country, you should call a lawyer and get legal advice before going offshore. No respectable Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) program is going to approve someone genuinely worried about a possible pending indictment; neither 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, West-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 islands like the Maldives or Vanuatu. They don’t have extradition treaties with the United States and seem 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 alleged criminals.

The key takeaway from this point should be that the act of extraditing someone doesn’t require an actual extradition treaty – a treaty just makes the process more straightforward. Thus, the concept of non-extradition treaties is somewhat irrelevant because any country can turn someone over at any time.

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: 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 and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the world’s financial powers are working more closely than ever before. Moreover, they all reached a consensus that hiding money is wrong and 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 bedecked with private jets and expensive vacations.

The United States and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Governments came together to investigate Abbas’s crime ring. When the US Government finally indicted Abbas and his associates, the Dubai police simply arrested them and handed them over. Abbas was duly convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering.

Abbas’s indictment, extradition and conviction all happened despite the absence of a formal US extradition treaty with the UAE. It was a rude awakening for many people who mistakenly thought the UAE was a non-extradition country. 

Dubai, as in ‘Dubai anything’ 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 reconsider.

Moreover, the UAE Government recently imposed a 9% corporate tax to keep pace with international tax reform. If they’re sensitive enough to international opinion to charge their national tax strategy, they’re unlikely to harbour someone fleeing the law in another country.

High-Profile Extradition Cases

Elsewhere, France has an extradition treaty with the United States, yet has been the home of Hollywood star Roman Polanski who’s been on a wanted list in the US for years. In 1977, Polanski pled guilty in 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, and that policy has included Polanski. As a result, 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 would have been 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, Maxwell was denied bail. 

Why You Should have Multiple Citizenships (Second Passports)

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 jail’ to the list. 

For non-citizens, some European countries like France may demand certain conditions are met before extradition is granted, such as guarantees that suspects won’t be tortured and 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 from Russia in the event of losing the war in Ukraine, there was speculation that he didn’t consider China because, despite its political openness to Russia, Putin ultimately viewed the Chinese Government as pragmatic negotiators who could 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 that Brazil doesn’t extradite its citizens, but 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. 

Being a citizen of a given country 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 after leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents to the press.

Snowden eventually received permanent Russian residence and later obtained 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 had. Still, Snowden’s citizenship gives him an extra layer of protection in that Russia, in practical terms, does not extradite its citizens.

We highly recommend having dual citizenship, but it’s crucial to note that you need to secure that second citizenship honestly – you risk losing it if you lie during the application process. You need to bear in mind that securing citizenship in countries like Russia, France or Brazil isn’t just a matter of moving there.

Faster methods of obtaining citizenship involve deep due diligence by the authorities who will expect you to take an oath that you’re not under investigation for past or present wrongdoing. If it’s later discovered you lied about this, that would be grounds to have your citizenship cancelled. Even moving to France, Brazil or Russia and lying about your activities during the residency process could be grounds for cancelling your citizenship-by-naturalisation qualification years later.

Extradition Request Not Required

Another overlooked fact about non-extradition countries is that extradition from a foreign country 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-profile status in the country. However, 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 with one legal scholar suggesting that the United States could simply advise the Bahamian Government that Bankman-Fried 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  Bankman-Fried was charged, his residence permit could have been cancelled and he would have had no legal basis to stay in the Bahamas. He could then have been shipped to his only country of citizenship, the country where he used to live – the United States.

Countries Without Extradition

If the reality of the process hasn’t turned you off searching for non-extradition countries, consider the following such countries you can go:

  • War-torn Ukraine
  • Sanctioned Belarus
  • African nations like the Congo, Burkina Faso or Djibouti.

Admittedly, there are also liveable 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. 

What Extraditions Treaties Really Mean

If you’ve made it this far and are upset that we didn’t provide a list of viable non-extradition countries for your escape, that was kind of the goal. 

At Nomad Capitalist, we’ve spent well over a decade trying to rehabilitate the image of the offshore industry. After all, it’s our core belief that 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 needs is 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 existence, Nomad Capitalist, has never been singled out for legal scrutiny in the countries we write about or landed ourselves in trouble. That’s precisely because we go to great lengths to play by the rules and weed out the 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.

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