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Friday, April 18, 2014

‘Releasing Zeng will have negative implications on US foreign policy’

Releasing alleged fugitive and property mogul Wei Zeng on bail would have negative implications for U.S. foreign policy in cases where the U.S. seeks extradition of fugitives from Hong Kong, according the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. attorney Jessica F. Cruz, as counsel for the U.S. government, stated that the ability of the U.S. to deliver fugitives pursuant to extradition requests has significant international law implications.

“The international legal system depends wholly upon the respect of its members for the obligations into which they freely enter,” Cruz said.

When a foreign country meets the conditions of its extradition treaty, the U.S. is obliged to deliver the fugitive, she said.

Cruz wants Zeng’s request for bail be denied.

Cruz also disclosed that the Hong Kong government has informed the United States that Hong Kong attorney Priscilia Lam claims that Zeng retained her for purposes of the U.S. government’s provisional arrest request.

Guam immigration lawyer Nelson Xu, of the Baumann, Kondas and Xu LLC law firm, has joined attorney Bruce Berline as counsel for the 51-year-old Zeng, also known as Zhiquian Liu.

In opposing the bail request on Friday, Cruz said that Zeng is a flight risk because he has a history of fleeing to avoid prosecution, possesses significant financial resources, is adept at concealing his identity, and has no ties to the CNMI.

Cruz said that Hong Kong wants Zeng extradited so that he may face trial on three counts of bribing an agent and for conspiracy to deal with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense.

Cruz said the overwhelming weight of authority supports the strong presumption against the granting of bail in international extradition cases.

She disclosed that the Hong Kong District Court had released Zeng on bail pending trial. However, days before his trial in July 2011, Zeng left his home and never returned.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Thursday found probable cause to warrant the filing of a criminal case against Zeng. She ruled that there is probable cause to believe that Zeng committed the crime of making a false statement to a federal agency.

The complaint alleges that Zeng knowingly and willfully lied to U.S. Customs and Border Protection by declaring on his entry form that he had not previously applied for a U.S. immigrant or non-immigrant visa.

A separate hearing will be held on Feb. 18 on the U.S. government’s separate filing of a complaint for provisional arrest with a view toward extraditing Zeng.

This will be the first high-profile extradition between the U.S. and Hong Kong governments since Washington’s failed bid to secure the return of former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013.

Zeng was arrested on Jan. 16 when he allegedly used a different identity to try to enter Saipan from Shanghai, China. He sought admission to the CNMI using the name Zhi Qian Liu.

On July 4, 2011, the Hong Kong District Court issued a warrant for Zeng’s arrest on the basis of charges that he bribed a bank official in Hong Kong with a bag filled with HK $2.3 million, the equivalent of $300,000 in October 2010.

The cash was allegedly a reward for the bank official’s help in a multi-million Hong Kong dollar loan extension application and for giving favorable credit information relating to Zeng’s two companies.

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