Romanian fugitive deported from Cayman Islands

Mihai Tanjala in an Interpol alert.

The founder of Romania’s secret police service has been deported from the Cayman Islands after exhausting attempts to fight extradition to his homeland where he faces jail time for corruption.

He repeatedly claimed he feared persecution and torture if he was sent back to the former communist country and he sought political asylum in the Cayman Islands.Mihai Tanjala even resorted to a hunger strike while detained at Northward Prison, vowing, “I refuse to go back to Romania alive,” in a letter to the governor, made public in a recent court filing.

Immigration officials confirmed that Mr. Tanjala’s requests had been turned down and he is no longer on island, having been flown to Romania on Oct. 18, just over a year after he was taken into custody.

The entrepreneur and former politician was sentenced in 2011 to five years in prison for a fraudulent business deal. He fled Romania and has been on the run ever since, arriving in Cayman from Cuba on a visitor’s visa in September last year.

He was detained trying to enter Jamaica after authorities there noticed he was on an Interpol red list and an international warrant had been issued for his arrest.

His extradition to Romania was approved by a Cayman Islands court last December, a decision that was upheld by Justice Malcolm Swift in June. The judge ruled that there was no evidence of specific danger to Mr. Tanjala in Romania or that his conviction was unfair or politically motivated.

“Morally exhausted, weary of suffering and hopeless, I decided to prevent my extradition and not be humiliated, aggressed and threatened like a criminal. To be on hunger strike until a decision will be taken or I will die.”

Court documents indicate Mr. Tanjala has since made numerous additional efforts to stay in Cayman, including a request to be classified as a refugee and be granted political asylum under the Geneva Convention.

His options appear to have run out, however, with the Sept. 23 decision of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal that the Department of Immigration was correct to deny his application.

Court documents indicate that Mr. Tanjala also made multiple appeals for assistance to the Red Cross and the governor’s office and sought to marry his ex-wife while in prison.

His lawyers lodged an appeal against the decision to refuse asylum with the Grand Court on Oct. 4 along with a second petition from his former wife alleging breaches of their human rights in connection with their failed attempt to get married in Cayman.

In a letter to the governor, Mr. Tanjala indicated he was on hunger strike, stating, “I wish my ex-wife will have a correct social status and safe financial situation if I were to die.”

Despite the new court filings, immigration officials confirmed that Mr. Tanjala had been deported, “having exhausted his appeals within the local courts as well as with the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.”

A summary of the evidence indicates that Mr. Tanjala claimed to fear revenge from people who believed he was involved with the abuses of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s oppressive regime, which ended with Ceausescu’s execution after a revolution in 1989.

“Also cited were examples of the alleged perennial hatred for the applicant among the Romanian populace/authorities because of the perception that the killing of thousands of people in Romania during the revolution was perpetrated by former information officers such as the appellant, who was labeled a “securest” and “terrorist” and relentlessly pursued by criminals avenging the death of their loved ones,” the summary states.

The tribunal rejects the claim that Mr. Tanjala, who worked as a politician and businessman for many years after the revolution, was persecuted politically in Romania.

In a September letter to the governor, Mr. Tanjala again protested his innocence and raised his fear of returning to Romania and made a final plea for her to intervene.

“Morally exhausted, weary of suffering and hopeless, I decided to prevent my extradition and not be humiliated, aggressed and threatened like a criminal. To be on hunger strike until a decision will be taken or I will die.”

He calls on the governor to “go beyond procedures” and re-examine the evidence in his trial in Romania, “find my innocence and dispose my release.”

The Grand Court earlier found there was no evidence of an unfair trial in Romania and ruled that the appeals process in that country was the proper place for any re-examination of the evidence.

Mr. Tanjala’s crime was not specifically related to his political activity. It was alleged that as administrator of the company IC IGMUG SA Giurgiu, he had become aware of an offer to buy a 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.

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