Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you’ve stolen some one-of-a-kind diamonds after an extremely convoluted plan with three backstabbings too many and two plot twists that had no foreshadowing whatsoever.
Now, a charming yet eccentric detective is on the case. His quirky way of solving crime has left the police confused, and the police chief has just about had it with him, but he’s about to crack the case.
Meanwhile, you’re looking at the briefcase full of diamonds in your hideout and thinking that you should’ve thought ahead about what you would do when you got them. No use crying over spilled diamonds though, but you still have an ace up your sleeve – so you turn on your computer, type into Google “best countries for fugitives” and get to work.
Soon, you find this article and you learn that what they say in the movies is correct. There’s such a thing as countries that don’t extradite to the U.S. – SUCCESS! So you look at the list of Non-Extradition Countries and book a ticket to the first sunny destination available.
Not so fast though, governments are much like your recent comrades in the diamond heist, they’ll only respect the rules when it suits them. As such, you have to be careful, as not all non-extradition countries are created equal.
In this article, we will be exploring the idea of non-extradition countries, and if the need arises, how to pick the best one:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is an Extradition Anyway?
- When thinking About Non-Extradition Rules, Think about Geopolitics
- Where to go after your Life of Crime
- Top Choices to escape to
- Mid-tier choices to escape to
- Low-tier choices to escape to
- Governments Don’t Care for Your Wellbeing
WHAT IS AN EXTRADITION ANYWAY?
Extradition is the formal process by which a suspect of a crime in one legal jurisdiction is apprehended by another sovereign territory and transfers the fugitive to be formally tried in a court of law where the offence happened.
The leading view in regards to international law is that prior to any treaty, countries are under no obligation to surrender any alleged criminal to another nation, given that one of the primary traits of territorial sovereignty is that countries have legal authority over the people within their national borders.
As such, as international travel has become increasingly easier and cheaper to do, there has been an increase in agreements between nations regarding suspects and escaped and tried criminals and if and how they are to be transferred back to the jurisdiction wherein the offence occurred.
Nevertheless, there are some restrictions for this, for instance, many countries will not extradite someone alleged of a political crime, or if they suspect that they would not receive a fair trial, be tortured, or sentenced with the death penalty.
That said, presently there isn’t a nation that has extradition treaties with every single country out there, meaning that you could theoretically be a wanted criminal in one nation, and if you manage to make it to a non-extradition country, relative to where the crime originally happened, then you won’t face any legal consequences.
Even the United States, despite having world-spanning influence, at the moment of writing only has 169 active treaties with different nations, in regards to extradition. Meaning that there are over 24 recognized nations that are considered non-extradition countries in relation to the U.S.
Worth noting though is that praxis often differs from reality. Sometimes countries that officially have no legal right to extradite you do so on a regular basis, while other countries who should do so, choose not to hold up to their end of the international agreement.
To what extent the rules are followed in regards to extradition, often depends on the very nature of the alleged crime. Sometimes countries prefer to harbor someone if they deem them politically important, while others don’t want any association with the individual at all, as it will cause too many diplomatic headaches.
WHEN THINKING ABOUT NON-EXTRADITION RULES, THINK ABOUT GEOPOLITICS
For the sake of following heist genre conventions, we’ll assume you stole the diamonds in the U.S. But this brings up some complications, as had you stolen them in a country with less geopolitical might, things would be vastly easier.
Because here’s the thing, even when talking about legal topics like banking and taxes, the U.S. has this habit of strongarming weaker nations into following its regulations, despite their best wishes.
Switzerland is a famous example, where even though a large portion of the economy was based on bank secrecy, they were forced to sign FATCA, which eroded such protections to their customers.
The U.S. is able to do this because it has the levers of power available to it. If they don’t like what a country is doing, they can do all manner of things to get it to comply – anything from trade embargoes, sanctions, CIA operations, or even outright warfare. As such, nations tend to comply with what the U.S. asks for.
In regards to extradition, it gets even worse, as obviously, you committed a crime. So this opens up the question of whether it’s worth using their resources to get you back, or not.
After all, commit a severe enough crime, and there’s a chance you’ll get whisked away by a CIA team, no matter where you’re hiding. Diamonds though? That’s not worth the political fallout of breaching the territorial sovereignty of a nation, and technically breaching international law.
It’s at this point where it becomes a game of chess between you and the U.S. Like it or not, you’ve now become a political pawn for your new host nation.
If your new country stands to gain enough goodwill from returning you to the U.S. authorities, extradition treaty or not, they might do so. For example, even places you wouldn’t expect in the Middle East, like Yemen, have occasionally sent fugitives back, despite not directly having an extradition treaty.
If, on the other hand, you’re useful to your host nation, either because you have access to secrets against their geopolitical rival, or even because you’re embarrassing their enemy, they’ll likely keep you around. Just ask the whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has been living in Russian custody since 2013 and who Putin himself has referred to as “an unwanted Christmas gift.”
In other words, the ideal place you want to go to is a geopolitical enemy of the place you committed your crime in. The caveat being that it primarily depends on the severity of the crime and how well-known you are.
Going back to the Snowden example, his end destination is somewhat unclear, as he was playing his escape route close to his chest. According to him though, he planned to go from Moscow to Cuba.
But then, he was met with a series of unfortunate events. Firstly, his U.S. passport was revoked, so he was unable to legally leave Moscow. Secondly, Cuba told Moscow it would not allow the Aeroflot plane carrying Snowden to land. So, even if he had gotten on the plane to leave, it wouldn’t have been of much use.
This means that, behind the scenes, even Cuba, a nation that at the time didn’t even have official diplomatic relations with the U.S., can be strongarmed into bending to their will.
If you stole diamonds, you’re likely too small of a fish to care for such technicalities. As many countries without extradition to the U.S. will accept you with open arms if you have enough money. And even if you took millions of dollars, it’s still not worth it for the U.S. to expend its political resources trying to get you back.
Cuba, for example, is said to harbor close to one hundred alleged criminals. So, even if you are a criminal, not all countries are equal when it comes to hiding out.
WHERE TO GO AFTER YOUR LIFE OF CRIME
We’ve discussed the inherent political difficulties of choosing a destination, but you have to begin thinking of the practical considerations as well.
Chances are that if you’re the type of person who is Googling the list of countries with no extradition to the U.S. you’re not going to steal some gum from the corner store. Meaning that due to the extent of the crime, your Statute of limitations (the time wherein you can still be charged with a crime if you get apprehended) is likely to be in the decades.
Now, due to this, once you reach your destination you’ll have to stay there for a large portion of your life. So while living on the beach in a non-extradition country with your newfound wealth sounds lovely, is it sustainable?
What do you do on day 743 of your life there? There are only so many mojitos you can drink by the beach before you get tired of the whole thing. You want a place with modern facilities, including good infrastructure, healthcare, and not so isolated that you go mad.
Broadly speaking, I would say that there are three places that don’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S. that have all of the previously mentioned facilities and offer the possibility to emigrate to them if you jump through their legal hoops.
Top Choices to escape to
If the U.S. ever had an arch-nemesis, it would be Russia. Both countries have fought entire proxy wars just to deny a situational advantage towards the other side. As such, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that they would be amenable to enjoying some ill-gotten wealth, courtesy of their rivals.
You can get citizenship by investment quite easily, and even qualify as a citizen after only three years. You just need to create a business that will generate 10 million rubles (presently about USD132,000) per year in revenue and seeing as you need to liquidate your new horde that shouldn’t be all that difficult.
In return, you’ll have free reign in the largest country on Earth, and access to leisure facilities fit for a newfound billionaire.
While it only recently recovered its influence on the world stage, China has been making up for it. In raw GDP, it’s second only to the U.S. and it has something to offer to everyone.
It has everything from bustling, cosmopolitan cities, to quaint villages up in the mountains, and it can work with any budget.
More importantly, while not openly hostile, China has a lax relationship with international agreements, especially where it concerns intellectual property or proprietary technology. As such, if you are able to bring enough money to the table, they might be willing to look the other way.
The Gulf States, which includes the wealthy Gulf states of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, despite historically being friendly to many superpowers, primarily care for their own wellbeing. As such, they’ve arranged their affairs so as to not be beholden to the geopolitical strategy of other powers, unless it’s to their best interests.
Hence why they are particularly welcoming to entrepreneurs and offer zero taxes, despite the fact that it causes brain drain in other countries.
While the Gulf States’ official stance on criminals is that they’re not welcome, the reality of the situation is quite different. In finance circles, it’s an open secret that in places like the UAE, you can purchase property with cash on hand and they will not properly check for the provenance thereof.
The benefit of real estate investments, is also that you can leverage them to get permanent residence permits. Consequently, it’s become a popular way for all manner of nebulous organizations (including U.S. three-letter agencies and criminal organizations) to launder money and arrange their extra-legal enterprises here.
As such, not even the U.S. is particularly all that interested to erode the neutral ground that has accidentally been created.
To quote Misha Glenny’s book McMafia, wherein he explores the global criminal underworld:
“Dubai’s discreet attitude to cash has enabled the city to attract leading figures from industries beyond sports and showbiz over the past decade […] Dubai has proved to be a civil host to many gangsters in the past two decades, provided they behave with discretion […] Dubai had become so useful for terrorists, the superrich, the United States, dictators, Russian oligarchs, celebrities, Europe, and gangsters that, to paraphrase the nineteenth-century French prime minister Talleyrand’s observation about the Habsburg Empire, if it didn’t exist, the global elites would have to invent it.”
Mid-tier choices to escape to
Let’s say that for some reason or another, you wish to keep a lower profile. Going to Russia, China and the Gulf States might bring too much unwanted attention. Or, perhaps you want to go somewhere where you can feasibly start a business, and make money in a developing economy that isn’t already bid up by international investments.
In that case, a mid-tier option might be worth looking into. These options aren’t particularly the most powerful entities out there, and are often beholden to the wishes of third parties. Fortunately for you though, these nations fall outside of the traditional Western sphere of influence and thus aren’t particularly strong candidates for extradition treaties.
Over most of the 20th century, Armenia was primarily aligned with the Russians, and during the 21st century, it has tried to make overtures towards the West. That said, given that their mortal enemy – Turkey – remains one of the more crucial NATO members, it’s unlikely that much will come from this.
This country nestled in mid-Asia has a lot going for it.
Its diaspora can be found in most countries around the world, and more often than not they bring both their entrepreneurial zeal and patriotism with them. As such, often when Armenians strike it rich elsewhere, they invest a portion of their wealth back into Armenia.
The tech sector alone is growing at about 20% per year!
And as little as a deposit of $20,000 in financial assets (publicly traded stocks shares as well as corporate & sovereign bonds) can get you a residence permit. So, if you happen to have some money, and you would like to invest in your future for a few decades, you could be in an extraordinary position with a bit of business acumen and patience.
Vietnam & Cambodia
These are two country names that are famous for all the wrong reasons. But if you can look past the infamy of its history, then you’ll be greeted with two rather interesting frontier markets.
While it would be natural to assume that these two countries would immediately fall into the pocket of China, it’s only partially true. Owing to their history, wherein for hundreds of years the Chinese state has tried to assimilate them in one form or another, they’ve always tried to keep the superpower at a distance.
For example, Vietnam, despite being communist, when opening to the outside world again, first went to the U.S. before it approached China. Yet, they have to approach such diplomatic ties quite carefully, as if they ever showed to be tied too closely with the United States they’d make an enemy of China.
Consequently, extradition treaties and other such concessions that would primarily benefit the United States seem unlikely for the foreseeable future. And you can use this to your advantage as both economies are poised for quite an economic development over the next few decades if they manage to overcome the middle-income trap.
Worth noting is that it’s also pretty straightforward to emigrate to Cambodia. For under USD300, you can convert a tourist visa into a one-year business visa. In Vietnam, you can get a temporary residence by being the owner of a limited liability company, paying USD550 and it lasts for up to three years.
Low-tier choices to escape to
So, in looking for countries that don’t extradite to the U.S. you might’ve come across various lists (most of them are places you wouldn’t want to emigrate to). What you’ll quickly spot is that most frontier markets are not bound under extradition treaties. But this can occasionally be misleading.
There’s often a reason why this is so, either they’re in the periphery of the hegemons that we’ve already mentioned, or there is little reason to even need a treaty. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, you randomly end up in Djibouti while you’re fleeing from the law. Now you think you’re safe because it’s a non-extradition country and in the middle of Africa.
But little did you know, 5% of Djibouti’s GDP is earned by leasing portions of their country to foreign militaries to establish bases there, as it’s a geostrategic location that allows control over various key trading routes. And wouldn’t you know it? The U.S. is the largest leaseholder, followed by fellow NATO member France.
Would it not be reasonable to assume that by merely asking for you to be apprehended, that Djibouti would acquiesce, regardless of whether it’s a non extradition state?
Just because a location is on the list of your requirements, it doesn’t mean it’s actually worth your time after you consider all ancillary characteristics associated with it.
GOVERNMENTS DON’T CARE FOR YOUR WELLBEING
Admittedly, diamond thieves are unlikely to be on any country’s list of priorities. So, it’s unlikely that any country would go and stand in your corner without appropriate motivation. But the reason why we have selected the countries that we have is that, as much as is possible, these countries would be aligned with your own interests.
Governments, like any large entity, primarily care for themselves and their long-term survival.
As such, they view their citizens and residents as human capital to be used. Not unlike when you play a game of chess, it’s sometimes wise to sacrifice a chess piece for the long-term viability of your strategy, so too is it sometimes seen as wise to sacrifice the wellbeing of a subsection of your population to ensure strategic success.
Obviously, you will likely never be in a position to actively challenge a government. Even if you do so in court, it’s likely to be a prohibitively costly affair that will probably not even be successful.
So the most sensible thing that you can do is to look at the available options out there and find countries that align with your goals, in as much as is possible: if what you want is to go to a country with no extradition, then don’t just pick the first one off the list and call it a day, actually think of the long-term consequences of your decision.
Remember that in life you don’t make decisions in a vacuum, there’s a ripple effect on every choice and these decisions are made in an adaptive system.
The mistake other people who write these types of articles is that they look at a list, and don’t think things through, they’ll just copy-paste the information they found on Wikipedia by searching “countries with no extradition to U.S.” and call it a day. However, life is not that simple.
On paper, for example, Ukraine does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. So, it looks like a fantastic place to go to as it’s not officially aligned with the United States. On the other hand, when we consider that Russia is on their doorstep, annexing their territory, they’ll try to align themselves with a power to be able to counter this.
It’s reasonable to assume they’ll likely align themselves with NATO, EU, and by extension the US. As such, while extradition might have seemed unlikely, if you think two moves ahead, then it’s not so unlikely all of a sudden. It’s in their interests to make these alliances, and thus they will use whatever tools are on hand to sweeten the deal, including you.
The same applies to something with smaller stakes like lowering your taxes. Smaller countries beholden to others with higher taxes, especially if it’s common for their citizens to go there for legal tax reduction, will eventually be strongarmed into adopting similar policies.
And on the nature of criminality and governments doing as they please, let’s remember the example of Al Capone. Think of it, this is a man whom the FBI touts as an example of justice served. What is often forgotten is that he wasn’t caught on running the most impressive criminal undertaking of its time, but on tax evasion.
The moral of the story is that if those in power want to do something with their citizens, if they’re motivated enough, they will always find a way of doing it in the end.
Al Capone is a failure of the justice system, not a success. As it proves that a malicious prosecutor will always find something to nail you down with; it’s also worth noting it’s not that unlikely that you’re in violation of something else, as the U.S. tax code alone is over 6,550 pages long.
All this to say that whether you’re acting completely above board, or not, you have to align yourself with the long-term interests of those in power. If you don’t, it’s like waking up every morning and playing a round of Russian roulette. There will be one day when the luck runs out.
If your diamond heist daydream has gotten you thinking about the offshore world, then perhaps you’ve realized something: not all countries are cut from the same cloth.
Different countries have different rules on what they tolerate, and will also have different comparative strengths and weaknesses.
This thought experiment in regards to the non-extradition countries is meant as a means to get you to think that you might be better off abroad than you are at home. Even if you genuinely believe that you live in the best country on Earth, objectively it’s unlikely you do.
Depending on what you value, the ideal location might change. Perhaps what you value at this stage of your life is a place where you can build a business with few restrictions and hire the best people, then after you’ve amassed wealth you might choose a zero-tax destination to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The point is that the world has over 193 recognized countries, none of which is the best in every respect. They all have their comparative advantages and disadvantages, and if you learn how to competently navigate through them, you will be able to get the most out of your life.
Don’t be locked into a single set of unchanging circumstances, like most people out there. Instead, choose what is best for you and your future. Here, at Tax-Free Citizen, we can help you unlock the potential that the world has to offer to you.