The founder of Romania’s secret police service will be sent home to face jail for corruption after his appeal against extradition from the Cayman Islands failed.
Mihai Tanjala, also a former politician and entrepreneur in the former Communist country, had been on the run since 2011, when he was sentenced to five years in prison over a fraudulent business deal.
He was caught in Cayman at the end of last year and, after a hearing in front of Chief Magistrate Nova Hall, he was ordered to be extradited back to Romania to serve out his sentence.
He filed a writ of habeas corpus, alleging wrongful imprisonment in connection with the extradition, the only legal avenue of appeal open to him. In a hearing last week, Tanjala repeated claims that he was innocent and suggested his prosecution in Romania had been politically motivated, in part, because of his links to the former Communist regime.
Justice Malcolm Swift dismissed those claims Friday. He said the matters raised by the defendant in his application were without foundation.
“I can find no causal link between the allegations of impropriety raised by the applicant and his prosecution/conviction. There is no credible evidence that the Romanian proceedings were conducted otherwise than in accordance with natural justice or were unfair or were political or that it would be unjust or oppressive to return the applicant to Romania to serve his sentence. The application is refused and the warrant of committal stands.”
During the original hearing in December last year, Tanjala, pleaded with the court not to send him back to Romania, claiming his life would be in danger.
At one point during the hearing, he offered to serve out his sentence in the Cayman Islands and pay for the cost of his jail time.
Tanjala had been living in the U.S. and seeking asylum prior to his arrival in Cayman. Court documents suggest he dropped his asylum application and paid US$50,000 to allow him to depart the country.
He entered Cayman undetected after previously traveling through Cuba and the Bahamas. It was not until he tried to enter Jamaica that officials spotted his name on an Interpol red list and found there was an international warrant out for his arrest.
Prosecutor Cheryll Richards said during last week’s hearings that Tanjala’s conduct did not suggest someone desperately seeking political asylum as he had suggested.
“Rather it suggests someone seeking to escape justice whose plans were disrupted by his enforced return from Jamaica to Grand Cayman,” she said.
The judge’s decision means the original order for a writ of committal to be issued stands, and he will be handed over to Romanian authorities. Tanjala was convicted in 2011 of deliberately underselling property of a company, part-owned by the Romanian state, to a family member.
It was alleged that as administrator of the company IC IGMUG SA Giurgiu, he had become aware of an offer to buy the property from another firm, Zone Libere SA.
Instead of authorizing the deal, he orchestrated the sale of the asset to a company owned by his wife for a fraction of the price. That company then made the deal with Zone Libere SA at a massive profit.
The court heard that he had absconded from Romania immediately after his conviction and had been a fugitive ever since. He claimed he was fleeing an injustice and was attempting to reopen his case from exile in the U.S.