Spain mulls extradition of Puerto Rican woman
MADRID - A Puerto Rican woman wanted by U.S. federal authorities for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill her wealthy Canadian husband told a Spanish extradition hearing Wednesday she is innocent and the victim of "corrupt and Mafioso" types.
Aurea Vazquez Rijos, 33, told Madrid's National Court that she didn't want to be extradited, and claimed she had lived legally in recent years in Italy and was never aware she was wanted by U.S. authorities until she arrived in Spain. Vazquez said authorities wanted to give her the death penalty, but said there was absolutely no case against her.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. Caribbean territory whose residents are American citizens. Puerto Ricans can't vote for U.S. president and don't pay U.S. federal income tax, but are subject to federal laws and can receive the death penalty. Puerto Rico's government has requested that federal prosecutors stop seeking the death penalty in Puerto Rico, and that Puerto Rican juries have rejected death penalty cases six times in recent history.
Vazquez was arrested in June in Madrid after flying in from Italy, where she had been living since 2008. A U.S. grand jury indicted her that year following accusations that she offered a man $3 million to kill her 32-year-old husband Adam Anhang, who was beaten and stabbed to death in Puerto Rico in 2005 while he walked with Vazquez near a bar he had bought for her.
Back then, Vazquez refused to co-operate with police and filed a civil lawsuit against Anhang's family, seeking $1 million in damages and millions more from his estate. A judge in Puerto Rico dismissed the suit.
Authorities have since charged a suspect, Alex Pabon Colon, with the killing. He pleaded guilty and co-operated with investigators. Several others, including members of Vazquez's family, have been arrested and charged in the case.
Anhang had developed seaside hotels and condominiums in Puerto Rico and served as CEO of a Costa Rica-based online gambling software company.
The Spanish court is expected to rule on the extradition within three weeks.
Vazquez said she had an Italian residence permit and had twins with another man there. Vazquez said she worked as a tourist guide and had travelled frequently in Europe. She added that she had her American passport renewed in Italy last year.
She asked the court how she could have done all of this if there had been an arrest warrant out for her. She said she had been duped into thinking she was to meet a tourist group in Madrid when she flew here in June. She said she was arrested as she stepped off the plane.
"There is an act of the Mafia and corruption behind all of this," she said.
Vazquez's lawyer, Isaac Abad Gomez, argued against the extradition, saying there was no guarantee that Vazquez wouldn't face life imprisonment without parole, which U.S. authorities say she faces. He also said the arrest order was faulty.
Spanish law doesn't permit the extradition of people who could face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. The Spanish prosecutor said he favoured extradition as long as there were guarantees that she wouldn't face either of these two punishments.
The defendant sobbed a little as she was handcuffed from behind and led away from the courtroom.
The murder victim's father, Abe Anhang, said he was happy she had been detained.
"Our family is most grateful for the efforts of the FBI, Interpol and the Spanish police for apprehending her, and to the courts in Spain for dealing with this so efficiently, " said the man, who lives in Winnipeg. "After eight years, we are looking forward to justice and closure."
AP writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.