Move called into question Nepal side's procedures
KATHMANDU, Aug 26: INTERPOL headquarters has suspended the red corner notice issued against most-wanted wildlife 'smuggler' Ian Baker after the latter appealed to the global police body to review the notice.
INTERPOL had issued the notice on 3rd April, 2015 as per recommendations made by the National Central Bureau (NCB)-Kathmandu, INTERPOL's Nepal office, on 19th September, 2008. Nepal Police had sought the action after security personnel raided Baker's apartment in Kathmandu and seized illegally-possessed wildlife body parts, trophies and other artifacts in a huge quantity, between 17th to 22nd May, 2008.
Baker, a US citizen, was found to have been staying continuously in Nepal for more than 24 years and was known to be a contributor to the National Geographic television channel.
INTERPOL headquarters suspended the notice against him after failing to be convinced by the 'clarifications' received from Nepal Police to counter the quality of information and legality claimed by Baker.
“Interpol has suspended the red corner notice on Baker until new investigations draw a conclusion,” said the Nepal Police spokesperson, DIG Madhav Prasad Joshi. “But we are confident that his appeal will not be sustained because we have adequate and very strong evidence to prove him guilt,” Joshi added.
INTERPOL--the global police body--had sought certain detailed information on the legal processes undertaken by NCB-Kathmandu after the 'fugitive' made an appeal, claiming that he was framed by the police.
According to Nepal Police sources, Baker, in his appeal to INTERPOL, alleged that the police had bargained for a hefty amount of money before seizing 'his collection' and that he was framed upon his failure to fulfill the police demand.
Responding to the 'clarification' from INTERPOL headquarters, NCB-Kathmandu last week had forwarded adequate evidence prior to the suspension of the red corner notice, the police spokesperson said.
A red corner notice is published only if all the conditions are fulfilled for processing the information, nor will it be published if this would contravene INTERPOL's statute with regard to protection of personal data.
The notice against Baker has now been removed from the wanted list in INTERPOL's official website pending another decision, police said.
However, Nepal Police officials and other law enforcement agencies have questioned INTERPOL's move, saying they were not given a 'hearing' despite the adequate legal basis for arresting Baker.
“INTERPOL has expressed dissatisfaction over his prosecution by Kathmandu District Forest Office -- a quasi- judicial body,” a senior police officer requesting anonymity said. The district forest office (DFO) is authorised to investigate and issue verdicts in forest-related cases but INTERPOL has refused to entertain the case, pointing out that the DFO is a bureaucratic entity and does not have the standing of a court of law.
Many INTERPOL member countries consider a red corner notice to be a valid request for interim arrest and the global police institution is recognized as an official channel for transmitting requests for such arrests.
INTERPOL's joint operation in South Asian and South East Asian countries had tracked down Baker in Bhutan and in Thailand in past years, but could not make any arrest for lack of extradition treaties.
The Nepal government made several attempts to bring him to Nepal but was hindered by lack of the necessary legal documents.