Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sun, sand and ... corruption? For fugitives, Thailand has it all

From The International Herald Tribune:

Sun, sand and ... corruption? For fugitives, Thailand has it all

BANGKOK — Give me your drug dealers, your money launderers, your felons on the lam yearning to breathe free ...

Thailand has never advertised itself as a beacon for fugitives, but the world's wretched refuse — to tweak the noble words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty — seem to show up here in droves.

Millions of tourists, most of them presumably without criminal records, travel to Thailand every year, drawn by the good food, lively night life and crystal waters. Fugitives come for the same reasons — plus the prospect, for some, of outliving a statute of limitations.

''Thailand has traditionally been one of the top source countries for extradition of criminals to the U.S.,'' reads a March 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy obtained by WikiLeaks. The cable lists the wide variety of fugitives nabbed in Thailand over the years: child molesters, narcotics traffickers, money launderers and cybercriminals, among others.

The cable, which was sent from the embassy in Bangkok, counts 135 defendants extradited from Thailand to the United States in the past three decades and dozens more people ''directly deported.''

But a scan of recent headlines in Thailand suggests that the U.S. fugitives are but a footnote on a long rap sheet of globe-trotting felons on the loose.

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