Breaking news on US efforts to extradite TelexFree owner Carlos Wanzeler on criminal charges, following a decision to strip Wanzeler of his Brazlian citizenship.
Can’t say I saw this one coming…
After the SEC shut down the $3 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, it emerged TelexFree co-owner Carlos Wanzeler had fled to Brazil.
This was later confirmed to be a calculated move, as Brazil has no extradition treaty with the US for Brazilian citizens.
Wanzeler has remained a fugitive hiding out in Brazil since his 2014 indictment for fraud and conspiracy.
On Thursday February 15th, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice formally cancelled Carlos Wanzeler’s Brazilian citizenship.
Details have been suppressed by the Ministry. What we do know however is that, as per Brazilian immigration law, the Ministry has the power to cancel Brazilian citizenship provided the individual in question has citizenship with another country.
Wanzeler is a naturalized as a US citizen in 2009.
According to Wanzeler’s lawyer, he took up US citizenship ‘so that the daughter could live with him in the USA‘.
In his defense, Wanzeler’s Brazilian lawyer is claiming his case “fits a constitutional exception”.
The lawyer also says that Wanzeler is responding to several lawsuits in Brazil, including claims.
For this reason, several precautionary measures, including the seizure of the passport, are weighed against him, so that he does not leave Brazil – the justification for the apprehension is precisely the double citizenship, since the US also does not extradite nationals.
Wanzeler was indicted by Brazilian authorities in early 2017. He is also facing criminal charges in relation to TelexFree’s VOIP operations in Brazil.
If I’m understanding correctly, the argument being made is that if Wanzeler has lost his Brazilian citizenship and is extradited, Brazilian authorities won’t be able to extradite him back. Like Brazil, the US does not extradite its own citizens.
As per the Ministry of Justice’s decision, Wanzeler’s case does not fit a constitutional exception.
According to the agency, as the American naturalization was requested spontaneously, it falls within the constitutional guidelines for loss of Brazilian nationality.
And it does not fit the constitutional exceptions, which authorize the maintenance of dual citizenship in cases in which naturalization is a condition for the exercise of civil rights.
One can hardly see Wanzeler arguing his avoiding trial for stealing millions of dollars through Ponzi fraud as a civil rights issue (although to be frank I wouldn’t put it past him).
As per the Brazilian publication Caldeiro Politico, Wanzeler’s Brazilian citizenship was stripped per a relatively new law, enacted only a few months ago in December, 2017.
The case that sparked the new law was that of Claudia Sobral, who the US government had requested extradition for in 2013.
A “judicial battle” that played out in Brazil’s courts eventually lead to Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court ruling that Sobral effectively gave up her Brazilian nationality when she was naturalized as a US citizen.
About a year after her nationality was revoked, Cláudia was extradited to the United States to respond to the case as an American, not as a Brazilian.
Whether Wanzeler’s extradition takes a year or happens sooner remains to be seen.
One way or another though it seems Wanzeler will eventually wind up serving time in a US prison.