South Africa currently has about 15 extradition requests that are yet to be resolved, including one for alleged Ponzi mastermind Barry Tannenbaum.
This was confirmed by the department of justice after this week’s ruling by a British court that honeymoon murder-accused Shrien Dewani should be extradited to South Africa.
And while there has been success in two cases – that of Dewani and Lolly Jackson murder suspect George Louca – it may take months or even years before they are physically brought back to South Africa to face the charges against them.
The department – which successfully argued for the pair to be extradited – says foreign nationals with deep pockets are the hardest to extradite because they can “buy time” by appealing rulings made against them.
Herman van Heerden, a director in the justice department responsible for extradition requests, said despite the sluggish extradition process, the victories in both the Westminster Magistrates’ Court and the Supreme Court of Cyprus, which turned down Louca’s appeal for his extradition, were a “move in the right direction”.
The legal requests unit was established in 2011 to focus on extradition requests to and from South Africa.
Van Heerden said Dewani’s extradition may also take time, depending on how quickly the wheels of justice turn.
“There are so many appeals that those who have money like him will institute to buy time. But at the end of the day we really don’t know when he can be handed over,” said Van Heerden.
Dewani, a wealthy businessman, is wanted for allegedly ordering the killing of his new wife Anni while they were on honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.
Van Heerden said he was certain that Louca, also known as George Smith and accused of murdering Teazers’ boss Jackson in May 2010, would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the decision to extradite him.
“Although Louca has lost his appeal, there’s nothing we can do except work with Interpol and get a confirmation that as soon as the European Court hands down judgment, hopefully in our favour, the Cypriot government hands him over to us. That could take a few more years if there are many postponements,” he said.
Tannenbaum, who is accused of fleecing R13 billion from investors, and his wife have lived on Australia’s Gold Coast since they fled the country in 2007.
But despite a number of failed attempts to get him extradited to face the music, the department is undeterred.
“The bottom line is that we’re convinced that Dewani, Louca and all the others must come back to South Africa to face their (charges). It’s important to get these people back for justice to be done. But extradition takes time,” said Van Heerden.
Another high profile extradition which is still pending is that of Australian businessman John Stratton, who the department wants extradited in connection with the murder of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble.
Stratton has been fighting South Africa’s extradition request both in South Africa and his native Australia.
Despite being sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempted robbery while on the run in Belarus, Dirk Prinsloo, who jumped bail and fled South Africa, is still wanted for allegedly sexually abusing young girls.
Van Heerden said the department would request Prinsloo’s return to South Africa after his prison term to face his charges.
The Extradition Territorial Jurisdiction Bill will be introduced before Parliament next year to “firm up” South Africa’s old legal framework for dealing with extradition matters.
The department would not give the names of lesser-known foreign nationals who are still wanted in the country.
Some wanted for various crimes are hiding in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique.
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