Jailed Saudi Arabian financier Adnan Khashoggi put his lawyers to work Wednesday preparing a response to a pending U.S. extradition request for his alleged involvement in illegal real estate dealings with former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos.
Khashoggi, also a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, was arrested by Swiss police Tuesday morning as he was having breakfast with his daughter, Nabila, in a suite at the luxury Hotel Schweizerhof.Swiss officials did not know he was in the country until notified by the U.S. Embassy. Justice Ministry officials said the embassy advised that Khashoggi, 53, was at the Schweizerhof and requested he be held in custody pending extradition proceedings.
Switzerland's Federal Police Bureau complied with the request on the basis of an arrest warrant issued March 24 in New York. The warrant was based on a March 9 indictment accusing Khashoggi of illegal property dealings. Khashoggi is being held in Bern's district prison.
"Now we are waiting for the formal extradition request to arrive, which American authorities have said will be sent as quickly as possible," Justice Ministry spokesman Joerg Kistler said.
At the same time, Kistler said, Khashoggi has the right to appeal directly to the Swiss Supreme Court within 10 days to order his release.
"So far we have not heard what action he and his lawyers will take," Kistler said.
A spokeswoman at the Bern office of Khashoggi's Swiss lawyer, Ralph Zloczower, said various legal moves were still being considered.
"So far nothing has been decided and everything is still being studied," she said.
Debra Livingston, a U.S. attorney working on the Marcos case, confirmed Tuesday in New York that the United States would file an official extradition request but would not say when.
"We have two months," she said. "We'll file within that period of time."
Charles LaBella, an assistant U.S. attorney in charge of public corruption prosecutions, said Khashoggi would be flown to New York "promptly" if the billionaire accepted extradition. If he fought it, perhaps "six to eight months," he said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bern said the United States had thanked Switzerland for arresting Khashoggi but would not comment further.
Once one of the world's richest men with a fortune running into billions of dollars, the jet-setting Khashoggi helped Marcos and his wife Imelda acquire New York real estate with embezzled funds, the indictment said.
He also acted as middleman in selling valuable paintings which Manila says were stolen by Marcos and his wife, the indictment said.
Swiss officials said those charges would under Swiss law amount to fraud and receiving stolen property and, if substantiated in the extradition request, permit Khashoggi to be turned over to U.S. authorities.
Federal Police Bureau deputy director Pierre Schmid told reporters Tuesday that Khashoggi would probably fail in any request to the Supreme Court for release before extradition proceedings.
Schmid said the court is "always very strict" in extradition cases because of the danger of flight.
Swiss media reported that Khashoggi flew in to Geneva on Monday and was driven to Bern in a limousine together with his daughter, personal doctor and four bodyguards.
The arms dealer and businessman was being held in Bern's district prison. Each of the prison's 63 cells have a bed, a chair, a table, a towel, a washstand and a toilet.