Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

On pondering Tim Durham, Bernie Madoff, Robert Vesco and U.S. extradition laws.

   Yesterday, Tim Durham was convicted on all twelve Counts on which he had been indicted for running a Ponzi scheme in which small investors were bilked out of nine figures total. He faces a sentence of what amounts to the rest of his life in prison. His defense attorneys immediately requested he be allowed to be held on house arrest pending sentencing (or maybe appeal), as he has been since he was indicted. The Government objected and said Durham is a flight risk.

   This perplexes me. Bernie Madoff perplexed me. First, realize I am an officer of the Court. I never would advocate a client skip the jurisdiction. All sorts of bad things happen—to client, to lawyer, to everyone—when a lawyer (and, btw, Durham is a lawyer) advises a client to violate the law. Second, from all I have read, Durham is a dirt-bag. To call someone a name does not advance civil discourse, but, hey—this is pretty blatant. Madoff definitely is/was a dirt-bag.

   My question has to do with why they did not do something. Okay, a different question many would ask is why did they bilk so many people out of so much money? We know the answer: greed + lack of conscience.    

   My question is much more practical. In each instance the individuals had scooped nine figures (Durham) and eleven figures (Madoff) over the course of their crimes. At some point, in each case, the main figure—Durham and Madoff—knew the circle was tightening. Each still had his passport. (If smart and having read any spy novels, each would have had several passports.) Each presumably had money, in stacks or in the form of little bricks of precious metals, offshore and out of reach of U.S. authorities. Each was smart enough (presumably) to obtain a list of countries with which the United States does not have a treaty of extradition.

   At that point, why did neither catch a jet to a nation from which he could not be extradited, and watch his trial in abesentia on satellite from a villa on a beautiful sea coast?

   With Madoff, I believe the reply would be that both the Russian Mob and Israel purportedly were after him. If that is true, he still will be hunted like a rabid dog and, eventually, discovered in the prison shower with his intestines draped around his neck and tied to a shower nozzle. A bright prison official—one brighter than Madoff—will have the death ruled a "suicide."

   Durham—to the best of my knowledge—did not rip off or otherwise personally offend anyone with ties to individuals or groups with the animus, resources, and skills to do to him what (and I might be wrong about this) eventually will happen to Bernie Madoff.

   Why did Durham not have a Gulfstream V whisk him off to Venezuala or someplace that lacks a treaty of extradition with the U.S.? I did not run a Google® search, so maybe Venezuala has such a treaty with us. There are countries, however, from which we cannot readily extradite. Andorra is located in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain. The country is tiny, but has a nice view and, I would think, gets great satellite reception. Some of the other nations with similar status vis-a-vis extradition to our shores and our courts have governments run by dictators. I do not think Durham would have landed and started to lead a movement for people’s justice against tyranny. More likely—like Robert Vesco four decades ago—he would have dropped money on the right officials as his aircraft taxied to a private terminal. He could have spent his last forty years of days in relative luxury instead of a prison.

   I do not advocate they should have done this. I simply ask if they thought they were so smart, they knew the noose was tightening, and they had the means, why were they not smart enough to skip out?

   Possibly, the answer is "arrogance"—or hubris, or however one wishes to call the quality. Each had gotten away with it for so long, he thought he could walk.

   "Rat smarts" are smarts sufficient to get what one wants in a particular situation. Just as rats are limited, however, so it that quality that bears the name of their species. Even Robert Vesco—who lifted nine figures during the Nixon era (when nine figures of wealth really meant something) and split the U.S. for various havens in the Caribbean—ended his days in a Cuban prison. He attempted to defraud Fidel Castro’s brother. Now that seriously was a bad move, although not as bad as ripping off the Russian Mob or Israel.


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