|02ABUJA1737||2002-06-11 14:37:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Abuja|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001737
1.(U) Summary: The Government of Nigeria turned over
fugitive Gabriel Etim Umoh to Embassy's LEGATT on June 8 and
he was flown out of the country, bound for Washington, via a
commercial flight that evening. GON cooperation was
excellent. The Attorney General oversaw the GON's side of
the process and personally intervened with prison authorities
to ensure Umoh was transferred to the LEGATT's custody in a
timely manner. This success reflects the GON's commitment to
improved law enforcement cooperation with us. We would like
to think it presages progress on our pending extradition
requests for at least 11 more fugitives, but our optimism
should be cautious. End Summary.
2.(SBU) In response to formal USDOJ extradition papers
presented to the Ministry of Justice in early February,
Attorney General Kanu Agabi on April 10 ordered the start of
extradition proceedings for Umoh. A U.S.-Nigeria dual
national, Umoh was convicted of mail fraud in the court
district of Central California and sentenced to 18 months
imprisonment followed by three years of probation. Free on
bond, Umoh fled to Nigeria rather than reporting to prison.
In mid-April, Umoh's extradition proceedings opened in the
Lagos High Court.
3.(SBU) Court proceedings ended on May 13 and the presiding
judge issued a favorable ruling on May 20. The Director of
Public Prosecutions, Mrs. I.S. Omiyi, formally notified the
Embassy June 5 that an order transferring Umoh to the
Embassy's custody would be forthcoming within days.
4.(SBU) Mission elements worked on the assumption that the
extradition should proceed as quickly as possible. LEGATT
Michael Bonner volunteered to escort Umoh to Washington on a
commercial flight and USSS Assistant Attache' Frank Boudreau
agreed to be the second escort. On June 7, the Embassy
responded to Omiyi's letter, stating that we were ready and
wanted to proceed with the transfer forthwith. In a phone
call with RNLEO that afternoon, the AG agreed to sign the
order immediately. He agreed to fly a MOJ official fly to
Lagos with the original copy of the order on the morning of
5.(SBU) On June 8, Omiyi, LEGATT, RNLEO, a Police/Interpol
Officer and the MOJ official who carried the AG's order from
Abuja went directly to the Prison in Lagos, where the group
found a recalcitrant Prison Supervisor who offered myriad
reasons for not turning over the fugitive -- ranging from the
inconvenient timing (the weekend) and lack of an explicit
court order, to uncertainty over the authenticity of the AG's
written order. The Embassy officers remained silent during
6.(C) RNLEO phoned the AG's personal assistant in Abuja (who
was in the AG's residence) and got the AG on the phone with
the DPP. The AG then spoke with the Prison Superintendent,
who produced Umoh within 15 minutes. (Note: The AG's Special
Assistant later disclosed to RNLEO that the AG had informed
the Prison Superintendent that if he didn't transfer Umoh the
AG would go to the President and have him fired. The AG also
warned that anyone obstructing this lawful extradition would
be disciplined. End Note)
7.(SBU) According to the MOJ officials who were inside the
prison, when Umoh was informed he would be leaving for the
U.S., he attempted to forestall the extradition by claiming
that he had filed an appeal. The DPP reportedly noted that no
such appeal had been registered with the court. Umoh then
stated that he planned to file the appeal when courts
reopened on Monday. This did not impress the DPP and Umoh
was soon transferred to the custody of the Nigerian
Police(Interpol) officer and escorted to a temporary police
holding facility nearby. Four hours later (7pm) LEGATT and
USSS Asst. Attache arrived in U.S. Mission vehicles with
Consulate security escorts and formally took Umoh into USG
custody. RNLEO accompanied the group to the airport.
8.(SBU) The U.S. Mission received excellent cooperation from
Nigerian authorities during the crucial transfer of Umoh to a
KLM flight at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
RNLEO requested NDLEA assistance in providing security and a
secure area where Umoh could be held; NDLEA Chairman Lafiaji
obliged immediately. The Federal Aviation Authority of
Nigeria's (FAAN) Chief of Security for the airport met the
arriving convoy at the diplomatic parking area and escorted
the party to the NDLEA hold area, allowing the US officials
and the fugitive to bypass the more congested arrival hall.
The FAAN official later escorted the travelers through a
direct route to the gate. KLM also was very cooperative,
allowing for early boarding and selective seating.
9.(SBU) Umoh and his FBI/USSS escorts departed Lagos at
10:40pm on KLM flight 588 and, after pre-arranged assistance
from Dutch Immigration, the party connected to Northwest
Flight 35 that left Amsterdam on June 9 and arrived at
Washington/Dulles at 2:10pm. At Dulles Airport, U.S.
Marshals took Umoh, escorting him to California.
10.(SBU) Gabriel Umoh, a dual U.S./Nigerian national, had
plead guilty and was convicted of one charge of Mail Fraud in
the court of the Central District of California in November
1987. Before beginning his prison sentence of 18 months and
3 years of probation, he violated bail and fled to Nigeria.
In November 1998 the USG requested Umoh's arrest but no
action was forthcoming. In February 2001 Umoh and two
Nigerian narcotics fugitives were arrested by the Nigerian
police. The GON planned to render these three fugitives to
US justice without formal extradition proceedings, similar to
the process used to render four fugitives in November 2000.
After the USG indicated the need for formal extradition
hearings, the police in April 2001 released them.
11.(SBU) Through the Embassy, DOJ resubmitted full
documentation for Umoh's arrest and extradition in February
2002. Umoh was rearrested shortly after the Attorney General
signed the official order to start extradition proceedings in
his case on April 8. Those proceedings started one week
12.(SBU) According to the MOJ prosecutor presenting the
Ministry's case for Umoh's extradition before the Federal
High Court, the defense counsel attempted to argue that the
crime (mail fraud) was not covered under the U.S.-UK
Extradition treaty of 1931 or the 1967 Nigerian Extradition
Act. This argument failed. MOJ prosecutors are not entirely
sure why Umoh did not immediately appeal the judge's ruling,
but speculate that given the lack of any successful
extraditions in the past, Umoh's attorney may not have seen
the urgency in filing that appeal.
13.(C) Comment: In any event, the attorney's failure to act
promptly, together with GON determination to help us move
swiftly, produced the first judicial extradition to the U.S.
from Nigeria in at least a decade -- perhaps longer. This is
a major accomplishment, and we would like to think it bodes
well for our many other extradition requests. However, we
need to temper our optimism. Umoh's case was different from
most as he had already been convicted. Also, Umoh may hot
have had the same resources available to him to corrupt
judicial proceedings that we believe other fugitives have
often employed. End Comment
Kudos and Action Request
14.(C) The new Attorney General moved our request for Umoh's
extradition through the judicial system at a remarkable pace.
According to his Special Assistant, Agabi expressed his
desire to erase Nigeria's poor image as a criminal haven.
This first extradition under the Obasanjo administration has
shown that the corruption-plagued Nigerian justice system can
work when pushed. Umoh's status as a convicted (vice
indicted) fugitive probably helped the public prosecutor's
case. Umoh's extradition also benefited from an ideal level
of GON support -- from the Attorney General just a cell phone
call away to having the Director of Public Prosecutions
accompany LEGATT and RNLEO to the Prison. The timing was
also perfect. A late Friday order from the AG to the Prison
and the Police and an immediate Saturday departure preempted
a last minute appeal. It was disappointing, but not
surprising given Nigeria's endemic corruption, that the AG
had to make explicit threats to get line officers to obey his
formal and written orders.
15.(C) During his transport to the United States, Umoh
confided to Legatt that the federal Prison Ikoyi was grossly
overcrowded and he paid N30,000 for a semi private jail cell
with a television set. Umoh stated that he had planned to
file his appeal first thing Monday and the Prison Official
was aware of his plan. Umoh stated that the official,s
reluctance to release him was a result of his knowledge that
Umoh was going to file the appeal. Keeping Umoh in prison
was to the official,s advantage because he would continue to
receive payments from Umoh for his privilege of a
semi-private jail cell. Umoh stated that the official
offered to get him released from prison for N800,000.
16.(SBU) Kudos for team work all around. This success
reflects excellent teamwork on all sides. We want to thank
Jason Carter and others in DOJ/OIA, Peter Prahar and Ed Flood
in INL, Steve Cutler and others at FBI Headquarters, Richard
Visek in L/LEI, Carl Cundiff and Dan Epstein in AF/W, and all
others in Washington who contributed to this extremely
short-fused coordination task -- all done by phone and e-mail
before we could get a cable out. That great Washington
support was mirrored by teamwork at the U.S. Mission here,
from getting formal correspondence to the Nigerian Justice
Ministry to arranging security for the prisoner transfer and
a Consular Section travel letter for the passport-less
prisoner. And, of course, we appreciate the efforts of some
terrific counterparts in the Nigerian Police and Ministry of
Justice who went beyond the call of duty to make sure this
17.(C) We will begin plans for the next extradition already
in train -- Daniel Orhiumu (ref D), also convicted of fraud.
Encouraged by our success with Umoh and with valuable lessons
learned in that process, we hope the Justice Ministry will
work with us in clearing the backlog of extradition requests,
while entertain new requests. We would caution, however,
that Umoh's case may have been easier for the court to
process and, as the first extradition success, it had the
benefit of surprise -- other fugitives may be better prepared
to file quick appeals.
18.(SBU) Action Request for INL: In light of this positive
development, we would like to set dates for the INL-funded
OPDAT extradition workshop in Abuja and involving US and
Nigerian MOJ prosecutors and Nigerian High Court judges. We
would propose July or August as a general time-frame.