March 25th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Maxim Chukharev, a Ukranian and Russian citizen and Costa Rican resident who is currently jailed in Costa Rica in connection with his role in Liberty Reserve, took a very unusual approach to protest his potential extradition to the United States: Chukharev literally sewed his mouth shut.
Chukharev, who is jailed in the San Sebastian prison, was found sewing his mouth shut using dental floss and a sewing needle in a makeshift “operating room” he assembled in his cell.
Apparently, Chukharev later began cutting his abdomen as guards intervened.
According to the daily Diario Extra, Chukharev has also been on hunger strike.
“It’s a form of protest to the Constitutional Court for all the irregularities that have occurred, the fact they are driven by pressure from the U.S. Government,” Chukharev told the newspaper.
Chukharev is wanted by the Southern District Court of New York on money laundering charges relating to his involvement in Liberty Reserve, a so-called “digital currency” which the United States alleges was the largest money laundering operation in history.
Liberty Reserve operated from Costa Rica, and according to U.S. authorities, laundered more than $6 billion in illicit proceeds. Inside Costa Rica covered the case extensively in May.
The United States alleges that Chukharev was in charge of the operation’s technical infrastructure. Chukharev could face up to 20 years in prison in the United States.
Liberty Reserve was shutdown by U.S. authorities in a joint operation with Spanish and Costa Rican authorities in May of last year. Its founder, Arther Budovsky was arrested in the operation.
In October of last year, the Russian Foreign Ministry sent a request to Costa Rica’s ambassador in Moscow, Mario Fernández Silva, asking that Chukharev not face extradition to the United States.
In their request, Russian diplomats expressed their hope that “the authorities in Costa Rica would act responsibly and not allow the extradition of Chukharev to the United States.”
The Russians described the extradition order as the latest example of “the extraterritorial application of U.S. law to Russian citizens,” which Russia described as a violation of international law.
Costa Rica’s courts are expected to rule on Chukharev’s possible extradition by early April. Chukharev is reportedly a naturalized Costa Rican citizen.