A Macedonian national has been sentenced to serve three years in federal prison for kidnapping his two daughters and taking them halfway across the globe to thwart a court order that granted custody of the children to his ex-wife.

During a sentencing hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell found there was evidence that Vojko Rizvanovic planned to take the children out of the country in advance and did so to obstruct justice, namely a court order telling him not to take his 2- and 4-year-old daughters out of the state.

A federal jury last May found Rizvanovic guilty of international parental kidnapping but acquitted him on two counts of making false statements on passport applications.

Rizvanovic is accused of fleeing the country in February 2002 with his two daughters after a Utah juvenile judge ordered custody to their mother, Sabira Ahmic. Federal prosecutors say Rizvanovic waited until a judge awarded him overnight visitation. That is when he packed their bags and headed to the Salt Lake International Airport.

Prosecutors say Rizvanovic had applied in advance for new passports, saying on the application that the old ones had been lost when in fact the girls' mother had them. Rizvanovic's attorney argued that the same application had the mother's signature, which was in dispute at trial.

Rizvanovic flew to Australia, where he stayed with relatives and then hopped on a flight bound for Macedonia, where his mother lives.

The flight had layovers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Vienna, Austria. By the time Rizvanovic and his daughters reached Vienna, an international warrant for his arrest had been issued and Austrian authorities took him into custody. The girls were then returned to their mother and Rizvanovic was brought back to the United States to face the charges.

The three-year sentence was the maximum sentence Rizvanovic could receive under the law.


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