Ex-Mexican general’s B.C. extradition hearing delayed

Eduardo Leon Trauwitz fled to B.C. in 2019 instead of appearing in a Mexican court, and applied for Canadian refugee status. | Twitter@LupitajuarezH

The extradition hearing for the former Mexican general who fled to B.C. in 2019 was postponed Thursday after his defence lawyer sought to introduce evidence that could help clear his client.

Eduardo Leon Trauwitz, 56, was arrested in December 2021 and freed on bail conditions March 14, 2022. The Mexican government wants Canada to return Trauwitz to face trial on organized crime and fuel theft charges. It alleges that Trauwitz, while working as head of head of security for state oil company Pemex, facilitated theft of 1.87 billion litres of hydrocarbons from clandestine taps in Pemex pipelines.

Trauwitz’s lawyer, Tom Arbogast, told Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick in B.C. Supreme Court that among thousands of pages received from the lawyer representing Trauwitz at the Immigration and Refugee Board were some that he realized could be used in the two-day extradition hearing.

One of those documents is a translated letter from a witness in Mexico.

“This letter essentially recants his evidence or explains his evidence in some form,” Arbogast told the court.

Arbogast said admissibility of the documents could be dealt with during the first day of the hearing. Federal prosecutor Amanjyot Sanghera said he was ready to proceed, but disputed Arbogast’s proposal.

“With respect, the late disclosure is problematic from our perspective as it derails the committal process that has been set down,” Sanghera said.

Fitzpatrick said the case was at a crossroads, with the sides needing to either begin hearing the application to admit the documents immediately or take time to develop their arguments. After hearing further from Arbogast and Sanghera, she decided to adjourn the case because the documents could be critical to Trauwitz’s application.

“But it will be on the basis that there's a fairly quick turnaround to get this matter back up and running,” Fitzpatrick said.

After the morning recess, Fitzpatrick returned and set Feb. 23 to hear the application and March 23 and 24 as new dates for the extradition hearing.

Last March, Justice Michael Tammen freed Trauwitz on a $20,000 surety to live under an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew with his daughter in Surrey, wear an electronic monitoring device around the clock and report to a probation officer.

The Crown had unsuccessfully argued for his continued detention because of flight risk.

Tammen heard that a lawyer for ex-Pemex employees filed a criminal complaint in March 2017 to the office of Mexico’s Attorney General, claiming they were threatened with firing if they did not follow the fuel theft scheme. Trauwitz fled to B.C. in May 2019, instead of appearing in a Mexican court, and applied for Canadian refugee status.

During Trauwitz’s hearing in December 2021, Arbogast said Trauwitz was the victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

“Mr. Trauwitz was the one who was trying to stop hydrocarbon theft and his actions actually prohibited other corrupt individuals from engaging in carbon theft,” Arbogast said. “They are now turning that back against him because they are higher up in the political food chain.”

At last March’s bail hearing, Tammen said the Crown, on behalf of Mexico, would have to satisfy the judge hearing the extradition application that the Mexican charges are compatible with Canadian laws.