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Latvian court to consider extradition of Estonian drug suspect to France

  • 2000-01-27
RIGA (BNS) - The Supreme Court Senate on Feb. 1 will consider the appeal against a decision by the Latvian prosecutor general to allow extradition to France of Estonian resident Nikolay Balabanov, suspected in organizing drug smuggling aboard the fishing boat Nemo vessel detained in France last spring. with 20 tons of marijuana aboard.

This will be the first case in the Latvian court practice that the Senate will consider the legality of the prosecutor general's decision.

Initially Estonia extradited the Estonian resident to Latvia and that decision also was appealed to an Estonian court by the suspect's representative.

The suspected Estonian resident was detained in Ainazi near the Latvian-Estonian border when he wanted to leave the country.

The drug enforcement office chief Vilnis Kipens said the Estonian resident was detained at the request of France. The French police investigating the Nemo affair said the Estonian resident is suspected in smuggling and France is calling him to responsibility.

Latvia opened criminal investigation in the case of Nemo vessel of SIA Nemiers firm on Feb. 23, 1999.

Since the detention of the suspected Estonian resident in August 1999, the negotiations on extradition formalities have been ongoing..

Kipens said if he is found guilty in France he may face a jail term of up to 20 years.

Presently five suspects are detained in France in connection with the smuggling case.