By: Jenna Davidson
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect views of the Journal, the William H. Bowen School of Law, or UA Little Rock
The dark web, drug trafficking, conspiracy, and special agents provide all the makings of a good crime thriller. They also provide the details for a recent press release from the United States Department of Justice describing a case they are currently prosecuting.
From about 2012 through 2017, Banmeet Singh anonymously sold drugs including Fentanyl, LSD, and Ecstasy on dark web marketplaces, such as Silk Road, that ultimately ended up in all 50 states. His guilty plea will result in a forfeiture of approximately $150 million in cryptocurrency. These facts are complicated enough without adding that Singh is an Indian National, not a United States citizen. Dark Web Vendor Pleads Guilty to Distributing Narcotics and Forfeits $150M, U.S. Department of Justice (2024), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/dark-web-vendor-pleads-guilty-distributing-narcotics-and-forfeits-150m. (last visited Jan 29, 2024). Crucial to this case is the practice of international extradition.
International extradition is a legal process by which one country requests another country to surrender a criminal suspect or convicted person. In the United States, international extradition is treaty-based, meaning that the United States must have an extradition treaty with the requesting country. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Extradition, U.S. Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/criminal/criminal-oia/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-extradition (last visited Jan 29, 2024). Singh was arrested in London in 2019, and the United States was able to secure his extradition in 2023. The United States has a bilateral extradition treaty with the United Kingdom that enabled Singh to be transferred. Bilateral simply means that the U.S. also surrenders offenders to the U.K. for punishment of crimes. U.S.– U.K. Extradition Treaty & Relationship, U.S. Embassy & Consulates in the United Kingdom, https://uk.usembassy.gov (follow “Our Relationship” hyperlink; then “Policy and History” hyperlink) (last visited Jan 29, 2024).
Extradition varies by country but often a court will review the request, the treaty that is in place, and the law to determine if requirements have been met. The process also involves an executive authority deciding on the potential surrender. In the United States, the Secretary of State is the authority who issues extradition orders. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Extradition, supra. Currently, that would be Antony Blinken whose role also encompasses the President’s chief foreign affairs advisor. The Secretary of State, U.S. Dept. of State, https://www.state.gov (follow “Bureaus and Offices” hyperlink; then “Secretary of State”) (last visited Feb 1, 2024). International extradition requests are initiated by prosecuting authorities such as United States District Attorneys. The request is typically made after charges have been filed and a court has issued an arrest warrant for the foreign national. The Office of International Affairs coordinates with the prosecutor to prepare and submit a request to another country. The State Department will then present the extradition request to the country’s governmental authorities. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Extradition, supra.
The Office of the Legal Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence also plays a role by providing legal advice on international law enforcement matters and managing the responsibilities in cases of international extradition. Extraditions, U.S. Dept. of State, https://www.state.gov/extraditions (last visited Jan 31, 2024).
Prosecuting foreign criminals is a major team effort and a lengthy process. In the case of Singh, a multitude of agencies and individuals were involved including the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), as well as multiple agencies from the United Kingdom. All of that effort would be wasted if not for the ability to extradite foreign nationals. Dark Web Vendor Pleads Guilty to Distributing Narcotics and Forfeits $150M, supra. Even an uncomplicated extradition request, can take a year or more to be heard by the courts and for the executive authority to decide on the surrender of the criminal. Extraditions, supra.
Once a foreign criminal is surrendered, the legal process continues. Singh will go in front of a federal district court judge for the charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The judge will determine his sentence according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and relevant statutes. It’s likely he will face eight years in a United States prison along with the $150 million forfeiture. Dark Web Vendor Pleads Guilty to Distributing Narcotics and Forfeits $150M, supra.