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Bahamas: Government Defends Expedited Extradition of the “Barefoot Bandit”

(Aug. 10, 2010) The United States and the Bahamas are parties to an Extradition Treaty that became effective in 1994. (U.S. Department of State, TREATIES IN FORCE, (last visited Aug. 4, 2010).) Thus, when the teenage fugitive whose full name is Colton Harris-Moore, but who is more commonly known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” crashed a plane that he had stolen in the United States and was apprehended by Bahamian authorities on July 11, 2010, the United States was able to immediately request his return to this country. Under the Bahamas Extradition Act, a person whose extradition has been sought can generally contest its legality on a number of grounds, such as that the activity he or she is accused of is not recognized as a crime in the Bahamas. However, under that law, a person who is found guilty of a crime in the Bahamas and who waives his or her right to formal proceedings can be extradited immediately. (Extradition Act, c. 96, § 17, BAHAMA REVIEW OF LAWS (Oct. 2006), available at http://
.) In the case of Harris-Moore, he was charged with illegally landing a plane in the Bahamas and, after pleading guilty, was fined approximately US$300 and returned to the United States. (Bahamas Defends Decision on “Barefoot Bandit,” CARIBBEAN 360 (July 16, 2010),

Within the Bahamas, the government has been criticized for allowing Harris-Moore to plead guilty to relatively minor charges; the critics believe that the charges were inappropriate in the circumstances and reflect poorly on the country. However, Bahamian government officials have defended their actions on the grounds that their intent was to assist U.S. officials in securing Harris-Moore's immediate return. The Bahamian Attorney General has stated:

It is not uncommon where an individual is alleged to have committed a series of crimes over multiple jurisdictions, for the jurisdiction where the lesser of the alleged crimes occurred, while acting in an appropriate way to condemn the breach of its laws, to allow the other jurisdiction where the greater of the offences allegedly took place to proceed with its charges by sending the individual to that jurisdiction. (Id.)

The Attorney General also indicated that the United States has employed a similar strategy in helping Bahamian authorities secure fugitives from the Bahamas. (Id.)