US visitor held for extradition in Cayman

Man lived openly in US, arrested after coming to island for vacation

A man returning to the United States after a brief holiday in Cayman with his wife was arrested at the airport on Sunday following a request from the nation of Israel. 

Ofer Kahal, also known as Ofer Khal, appeared in Summary Court on Monday, when Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards explained that authorities in Israel were requesting Kahal’s extradition. She told Magistrate Valdis Foldats that Kahal was convicted in 2001, in his absence, of causing death by negligent driving. The offense was extraditable because Cayman has a similar offense. 

Attorney Lucy Organ argued for bail pending the extradition hearing and on Tuesday was successful. She pointed out that Kahal, 42, has lived in the U.S. for 15 years, operating his own business under his own name. In 2009 and 2010, he got his Israeli passport renewed. “To say that Israel didn’t know where he was is farcical,” Ms Organ asserted. 

She also called it laughable that the U.S. could not find him. He lived in the Washington, D.C. area. He had applied for a U.S. green card and investigation at that time showed nothing against him. In 2008, he had to attend the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding his marriage. 

Ms. Richards and Ms. Organ agreed on a time line for the events leading to Kahal’s arrest in Cayman. 

While serving in the Israeli military forces, he drove a military vehicle into the back of a trailer in March, 1997. As a result of the incident, two people were killed and a third was seriously injured. His retrial did not take place until 2000; meanwhile, he was on bail and allowed to travel to America on a U.S. visa. 

He was acquitted on May 2, 2000 and left Israel the next day for the U.S. to return to his studies. 

In April 2001, an appeal court overturned the verdict and convicted him, but no warrant was issued for him until Aug. 22, 2002. 

Ms. Organ said it appeared that the offense for which he was convicted was not part of the extradition agreement until 2007. She pointed out that the maximum sentence in Israel for causing death by negligent driving was three years and it was not absolutely certain Kahal would be sent to prison. 

She noted that Mrs. Kahal had left Cayman after her husband’s arrest so that she could get family to come back and help her with the situation. 

The family was in a position to put up a cash security of US$50,000 and arrange accommodation for him, Ms. Organ reported. 

Ms. Richards objected to bail on the basis that Kahal had no ties to the island, was known to have two passports, and would be a flight risk. 

Ms. Organ said the Israeli passport was expired; his other passport was German, as his nationality is German. 

In granting the request for bail, the magistrate said it was clear that Kahal had not been hiding. When he left Israel it was as an innocent person, not under any criminal process. 

The magistrate accepted that Kahal has no local ties, but he concluded that concerns Kahal would flee could be met with certain conditions, including an electronic monitor, daily reporting to police, curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., surrender of passport and travel documents, a recognizance in the sum of $50,000 and the cash security of $50,000. 

The next appearance was set for June 23. Ms. Richards explained that the next step of the extradition procedure would be for the magistrate to notify the governor of the arrest. The governor would then notify Israel that the provisional warrant had been executed and authorities there would then send a formal request for the return of Kahal to Israel. The governor then considers the request to make sure it is not political. 

The maximum time period for extradition requests is 60 days, she said. She agreed with the magistrate that this was not a complicated case, but noted that the process of going through diplomatic channels can take time.