November 27, 2018 / 2:20 PM / 14 days ago

U.S. says Hungary refuses to extradite suspected Russian arms dealers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hungary denied a U.S. request to extradite two suspected Russian arms dealers and sent the men to Russia, where it is unclear whether they will face trial, the State Department said on Tuesday.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States had a strong case against the suspects, Vladimir Lyubishin Sr. and Vladimir Lyubishin Jr.

U.S. court documents show the two men faced drugs and weapons charges, including conspiring to sell Russian-made military grade weapons including anti-aircraft missiles.

“The United States is disappointed in the Hungarian government’s decision to extradite the Lyubishins to Russia,” she said in a statement.

“Hungary is a partner and friend of the United States, but this decision raises questions about Hungary’s commitment to law enforcement cooperation.”

Nauert said it was not clear whether the Russians would face trial in Russia and that Hungary’s decision will make people in the United States, Hungary and the world less safe.

A Hungarian government spokesman said his country’s justice minister made the extradition decision based on relevant international law agreements.

“Hungarian TEK officers captured the Russian arms dealers,” he told Reuters. “The laws of Hungary apply to everyone in Hungary.”

The United States, he added, has rejected eight of nine extradition requests from Hungary in the past five years.

U.S. authorities say the Lyubishins conspired to send narcotics into the United States and supply weapons to protect those shipments, according to an October 2016 complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

The complaint said they believed they were conducting the transactions with associates of a Mexican drug trafficking operation, who actually were confidential informants of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The transactions occurred in an unidentified European country, the court documents show.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis

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