Split 3rd Circuit Panel Rules Against Fugitive Putin Opponent Facing Extradition

Jason Doiy/ALM

A Russian fugitive detained in the U.S. claiming he fled his homeland because of persecution for opposing President Vladimir Putin is one step closer to being extradited, although not without objections from one federal appeals judge who claimed the judicial system could be the unwitting pawn of the Russian government in this case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled 2-1 that Igor V. Borbot was not entitled to a new bond hearing, on the basis that he is "a danger to the community."

Borbot, who came to the U.S. in 2014, was arrested in 2016 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after overstaying his six-month tourist visa and has been locked up ever since, according to the decision.

He's being held at Hudson County Correction Facility in New Jersey.

Later, Interpol issued a "Red Notice" indicating that Borbot was wanted for allegedly overcharging on a shipyard construction contract in Russia, a notice that was ultimately withdrawn on July 28 of this year.

Borbot argued that the U.S. government has unlawfully detained him since April 2016, and that while incarcerated he has been unable to communicate with his lawyers in Russia about his case there.

Borbot's lawyers in the U.S. did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a lawyer for the federal government.

The court's majority, Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Judge Thomas Hardiman, upheld a ruling below from U.S. District Judge Jose Linares of the District of New Jersey that Borbot's rights were not violated by being denied a bond hearing in which the government would have to justify its extended detention of Borbot.

Hardiman wrote that Borbot was afforded a prompt bond hearing and the opportunity to appeal the rejection of his release.

"We recognize Borbot’s concern that, despite an initial bond hearing, detention … might become unreasonably prolonged, whether by virtue of government delay or some other cause," Hardiman said. "But Borbot fails to identify a basis in the record to demonstrate that this is such a case."

But dissenting Senior Judge Jane Richards Roth cautioned that the court should be wary of the "machinations of a foreign government."

"This case is an example of such a situation. It has become clear that the Russian government has been employing Interpol alerts or 'Red Notices' to pursue and harass opponents of the Russian regime," Roth wrote in her dissenting opinion.

She continued, "A member country of Interpol, such as Russia, can request that Interpol issue an arrest warrant to aid in capturing a fugitive. Interpol will then issue a Red Notice and, on the basis of that notice, the fugitive can be arrested by the authorities in another member country where the fugitive may be located. This is designed to be an important tool in fighting crime. It is a tool, however, that has been misappropriated by the Russian government to punish political opponents who travel abroad."

Roth pointed out that Putin's opponents have been arrested all over the world on the basis of Red Notices. She called the Russian charges in Borbot's case "baseless" and "politically motivated."

"It is contrary to my concept of justice to hold in custody an individual who is the innocent victim of a rogue foreign government. For that reason, I would recommend that a new hearing be held by the immigration judge to review the finding of 'danger to the community.' Such a review is necessary to prevent a foreign government from improperly influencing our immigration courts."