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Swiss Set a Precedent in Extradition

June 10, 1986|JOHN KENDALL | Times Staff Writer

An accused money launderer charged with smuggling millions of dollars in drug profits from the United States has been returned from Switzerland to Los Angeles in a precedent-setting case, it was disclosed Monday.

U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner said the return of Oscar Fernando Cuevas, 34, a Colombian national, marks the first time that the Swiss government has extradited a suspect to the United States to face charges of laundering narcotics money.

"The high level of cooperation this investigation received from Swiss and British authorities represents a frank recognition of the fact that the war against drugs and the laundering of illicit proceeds transcends national boundaries," Bonner said.

Cuevas had been held by the Swiss since April, 1985. He returned to the United States late Friday to face a 15-count federal grand jury indictment naming him as the organizer of a scheme to provide a money-laundering service for drug traffickers.

Assistant U.S. Attys. Gordon A. Greenberg and Brian A. Sun said that Cuevas employed co-conspirators Ernesto Zawadski de Francisco, Carlos Eduardo Guzman-Torrado, Hilvia Negron Gaviria and Fernando Gaviria-Aquirre to obtain illicit profits from narcotics dealers.

The prosecutors accuse Cuevas of paying at least seven couriers to secretly carry "vast amounts" of currency on commercial airline flights from the United States to England, Switzerland and other countries without filing required reports with the U.S. Customs Service.

According to the government, seized records showed that the money-laundering organization had transported over $10 million to Europe between Sept. 16 and Nov. 29, 1984.

Cuevas could face a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison and a $2,550,000 fine if convicted on all counts. Zawadski, Guzman-Torrado, Gaviria and Negron have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms of two to five years.

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