Terra’s Do Kwon Wins Appeal, Avoids US Extradition For Now

On Tuesday, March 5, the Appellate Court of Montenegro has overruled the decision of the High Court of Podgorica, which had approved the extradition of Terraform Labs co-founder Do Kwon to the United States for criminal prosecution. The decision, dated March 5, 2024, nullifies the prior approval dated February 20, 2024, and mandates a retrial at the first-degree court, throwing a wrench into the international legal proceedings against the crypto entrepreneur.

Do Kwon Avoids US Extradition For Now: Here’s Why

The Appellate Court’s ruling came after identifying “significant violations of the provisions of criminal procedure” in the initial extradition order. The court highlighted a lack of “clear and valid reasons for decisive facts regarding the order of arrival request letter,” casting doubt on the procedural integrity of the extradition process.

Moreover, the court elaborated that the first-degree court’s determination hinged on the precedence of the extradition requests’ arrival – noting that the US request was received a day earlier than that of the Republic of Korea. However, it faulted the lower court for not adequately addressing the substance of a critical act from the Ministry of Justice dated July 19, 2023.

This omission was pivotal because it failed to consider the sequence and manner in which communications regarding the extradition requests were managed, particularly between Montenegro’s Ministry of Justice and the embassies of the United States and the Republic of Korea.

Furthermore, the appellate decision criticized the High Court for not properly binding the electronic communication from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Justice, which was sent to Montenegrin authorities on July 24, 2023. The appellate ruling underscored the legal framework that allows for electronic submissions to be considered valid, provided their authenticity can be verified and the originating judicial organ is prepared to furnish original documents within a stipulated timeframe.

The Appellate Court also questioned the High Court’s interpretation of international legal assistance laws, specifically critiquing its rationale behind prioritizing the U.S.’s extradition request. It pointed out a misapplication of the 1901 Criminal Tribunal Convention between the Kingdom of Serbia and the United States, underscoring a misunderstanding of the differences between temporary detention orders and formal extradition requests.

The Legal Saga Continues

This latest development is another chapter in the protracted saga of Do Kwon’s legal battles following the collapse of the Terra blockchain and its associated tokens, TerraUSD (UST) and Luna, in May 2022. The implosion of Terra’s ecosystem erased approximately $40 billion in market value, leading to fraud charges against Do Kwon by both the U.S. and South Korean authorities.

Kwon, who was arrested in Montenegro in March 2023 on charges of possession of falsified official documents, has been at the center of an intricate legal tug-of-war between South Korea and the United States, with both nations seeking his extradition. In December 2023, the Appellate Court had previously canceled the extradition approval to either country, emphasizing the need for a retrial at the Podgorica Basic Court.

The High Court in Podgorica had initially determined that Do Kwon could be legally extradited in November 2023, leaving the final decision to Montenegro’s minister of justice. However, the recent appellate ruling underscores procedural flaws and mandates a comprehensive review of the extradition request’s arrival order and associated legal documentation.

As the case returns now to the first-degree court for a new round of deliberations, the future of Do Kwon’s extradition remains uncertain. This decision delays, if not completely derails, the efforts of the US and South Korea to prosecute Kwon for his alleged role in the Terra ecosystem’s collapse.

At press time, Terra Luna Classic (LUNC) traded at $0.000250710.

Terra Luna Classic LUNC price
LUNC price, 1-week chart | Source: LUNCUSD on TradingView.com

Featured image from The National, chart from TradingView.com

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