In what is being regarded as a landmark decision that will have a great impact on the criminal justice system throughout Europe, High Court Judges in Cyprus have ruled that the country will no longer act as a safe haven for UK national fugitives to avoid punishment for their crimes.
The island country’s breakaway Turkish part, which has long since been used as a haven by fugitives from the UK, ceased to act as one after the High Court Judges ruled that extradition from the country is very much on the charts. The judges explained there was “absolutely nothing” that should prevent the British police from co-operating with Cypriot law-enforcement agencies to catch and extradite criminals from their country who are currently hiding in the island country. They added that this also implies that fugitives who would refuse to return to the UK for their trial can and will be prosecuted in Northern Cyprus.
The case in question that led to the landmark change was that of Hasan Akarcay, a 60-year-old businessman who is a prime suspect in a serious crime involving narcotics. After the discovery of a consignment of 12.5kg of heroin in Bradford, Mr. Akarcay had left the UK and made Northern Cyprus his home in 2006. The West Yorkshire Police has stated that fingerprint evidence has been found on the drugs, which successfully links Mr. Akarcay to the crime. The drugs have been estimated to be worth £600,000.
Mr. Akarcay will now be prosecuted in Northern Cyprus after the UK authorities have proved his involvement in the crime, and passed on evidence of the same onto Turkish Cyprus. A part of said evidence was given to Northern Cypriot officers on official visit in the UK, while the rest was handed over to Cypriot authorities directly by an official of the National Crime Agency.
Mr. Akarcay, however, wouldn’t give up without a fight, with his legal team taking the case to High Court, claiming that it was illegal for the UK to offer any kind of assistance, let alone pass over evidence to authorities in Turkish Cyprus. His lawyers stated that by co-operating, the UK and Northern Cyprus engaged in an “act of recognition” – an act that is illegal since it breaches the UN Security Council resolutions’ terms.
Their claims were soon rebuffed by Lord Justice Burnett, who declared that UK is not obliged to follow any law which prevents their government from recognizing Northern Cyprus, further adding that the UN itself works closely with enforcement agencies in the latter country in order to maintain law and order and maintain an optimum level of co-operation between the island’s two parts.
The judge, who considered the case with Mrs. Justice Thirlwall, further added that the co-operation was made due to the fact that the issue in question was that of public interest. Akarcay was a prime suspect in a drug conspiracy, and would certainly have been prosecuted if he had stayed in the UK.