Court: Israel can extradite Polish crime boss

Although 14 years since the crimes, state able to beat objections that too much time had passed, convince court to permit extradition.

Prisoner board plane for extradition (Illustrative) 370 (photo credit: Courtesy / Israel Police)
Prisoner board plane for extradition (Illustrative) 370
(photo credit: Courtesy / Israel Police)
The Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for the extradition of Janusz Dern. The ruling rejected Dern’s appeal of the decision to extradite him by the Jerusalem District Court.
Janusz and his brother Wlodzimierz allegedly ran a criminal organization in Poland, which stole and coordinated schemes by others to steal a range of items, from heavy equipment to electronics, totaling at least NIS 3.5 million.
In order to carry out their criminal activities, the Dern brothers also allegedly perpetrated the systematic forging of documents relating to their crimes. Most of their alleged activities occurred from 1993- 1996. In 1998, the Polish authorities opened an investigation into Janusz’s activities.
On September 17, 1999, Poland issued a warrant for his arrest.
Unable to locate Janusz in Poland, the authorities issued an international arrest warrant on July 22, 2002. Initially, Israel was not carefully checked as a likely location where Janusz may have fled.
However, on March 3, 2005, the Polish Ministry of Justice received new information indicating that Janusz had fled to Israel.
Later, the Polish authorities learned that Janusz had already obtained Israeli citizenship on May 15, 1996, allegedly to escape prosecution and to cover-up his identity.
On September 10, 2006, Poland submitted its initial extradition request for Janusz to the Israeli Ministry of Justice.
From 2006 to 2010, Israel and Poland cooperated on building a case against Janusz and Wlodzimierz, adding additional offenses to the case as new evidence was uncovered.
In June 30, 2010, the Department of International Affairs in the State Attorney’s Office petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to approve the extradition of Janusz for the offenses of conspiracy, theft, fraud under aggravating circumstances, basic fraud and other charges.
On July 9, 2010, after his arrest in Israel and after filing the petition to declare him extraditable to Poland, Wlodzimierz consented to being extradited voluntarily, avoiding the need for standard extradition proceedings. Wlodzimierz had fled Poland after being convicted and sentenced to fiveand- a-half years in prison by a Polish court, but before he began serving his term. He agreed to serve his sentence in Poland and is currently serving his prison time there.
Janusz disputed his extradition and proceedings continued against him, culminating in the district court’s February 23, 2011, decision to declare him extraditable. His extradition was temporarily stayed pending his appeal before the Supreme Court. In rejecting Janusz’s appeal and upholding the lower court’s ruling, the Supreme Court held that Janusz’s crimes would constitute crimes in Israel, that there was no statute of limitations barring his extradition and that there is no public policy value contradicted by extraditing him.
One of the major difficulties in extraditing Janusz was the passage of time, 14 years from the start of the Polish investigation until now. Janusz’s attorney argued that the primary crime his client was accused of was a theft misdemeanor, not a felony crime, which requires a case to be brought within five years of an offense, or by 2003.
The state’s attorney, Illit Maidan, successfully argued that if Janusz had been charged in Israel, his actions would have led to being tried for more serious crimes, including felonies. Israeli law allows a 10-year gap between the commission of a felony and when a case is filed.
According to this argument, the case could have been brought as late as 2008, and Poland filed its extradition request in 2006. Israeli law and most other modern legal systems recognize an extradition request as equal to bringing a regular case, so the “case” against Janusz was started in time.
In essence, the underlying basis of the argument was that Janusz should not be rewarded for fleeing from Polish authorities by a selective application of the most lenient parts of both Polish and Israeli law.
Rather, the state argued, the law should be interpreted, if possible, in a manner which advances holding Janusz responsible for his crimes.
The case was handled by the Department of International Affairs in the State Attorney’s Office, headed up by attorney Gal Levertov, in cooperation with the Israel Police Interpol squad.