U.S. News

Cuba returns third U.S. fugitive in a year

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba handed over an American wanted for fraud and theft in Utah to U.S. authorities on Thursday, the third fugitive it has returned to the United States in one year, U.S. officials said.

John Bradley Egan was detained by Cuba at the end of June when his 30-foot (9-metre) yacht developed engine trouble off Havana’s Marina Hemingway.

Egan had no documents and the Cubans contacted the U.S. diplomatic mission, which determined there was a warrant for his arrest in Utah for bank fraud and ID theft.

“The U.S. Coast Guard, our mission and the Cuban Foreign Ministry managed get him into U.S. custody and he was taken back to the United States this morning,” a U.S. diplomat said.

He was the third fugitive to be returned to the United States in one year.

The hand over of the three has come since acting President Raul Castro took over running Cuba from his ailing brother Fidel Castro 14 months ago and appears to indicate increased cooperation in law enforcement between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic relations since 1961.

“We seem to have had good cooperation from the Cubans on these law enforcement and drug issues. It is not given much publicity,” the diplomat said.

Earlier this year, Cuba returned an American wanted for fraud in the United States, a U.S. official said.

In October last year, Havana handed over David Ray Franklin, who stole a plane and flew to Cuba with his son. Franklin, who did not have custody of the boy, was indicted for international parental kidnapping in Florida.

The U.S. State Department says Cuba’s communist government harbors more than 60 criminals wanted in the United States.

The highest profile fugitive that Cuba has refused to hand over is former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur -- also known as Joanne Chesimard -- who was convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper.

Cuba has also refused to turn over fugitive financier Robert Vesco, who evaded U.S. authorities during decades on the run from charges he defrauded mutual fund investors of more than $200 million.

But Havana has cooperated with Washington in the war on drugs by intercepting traffickers using its territory to smuggle marijuana and cocaine into the United States.

In February, Cuba deported top Colombian drug lord Luis Hernando Gomez to Bogota where he was wanted for extradition by the United States to face trafficking charges.

Gomez, known as “Scratch” and one of the heads of the powerful Norte del Valle drug gang, was arrested at Havana airport in 2004 for entering Cuba on a forged Venezuelan passport.