SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Nov. 23)
After years of effort, extradition papers have been presented for an accused Nazi collaborator living in Costa Rica.
Poland’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Richard Sthneps, formally presented Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Tovar with extradition papers late last Friday for Bohdan Koziy, a Ukrainian who has lived in Costa Rica since 1987.
Koziy was indicted earlier this month by a court in Katowice, Poland, at the request of prosecutor Ewa Koj of Warsaw’s Institute of National Memory on charges that as a Nazi collaborator he killed 15 people.
Sthneps told JTA he couldn’t say how long the extradition process would take.
“I count on the goodwill of the Costa Rican authorities,” he said.
Costa Rican security officials have confided privately to the local Jewish community and to diplomats interested in the case that they know where to find Koziy, and had been awaiting the extradition request to detain him.
Public Security Minister Rogelio Ramos reportedly is following the case personally, though neither he nor any other local officials will admit publicly to knowing Koziy’s whereabouts.
Attorneys in the local Jewish community of roughly 2,500 people, most of whom are of Polish descent, believe the extradition procedure should take no more than two months because the country stripped Koziy of his legal standing in 2000, when Ramos ordered his expulsion.
Unless a bilateral treaty exists to expedite the process, extradition procedures from Costa Rica can be protracted affairs that take years. That’s one of the reasons Costa Rica long has been a favored destination of swindlers and crooks on the lam.
However, the decision to expel Koziy has been upheld by the country’s highest court, clearing the way for the extradition to proceed swiftly. However, Koziy is expected to seek some delays in the process, potentially arguing ill health as a justification, attorneys said.
Observers in the Jewish community who volunteer to monitor Koziy’s movements say he has been in and out of private medical clinics and hospitals this year.
The extradition request for Koziy, 81, marks the first time Poland has sought extradition of a suspect from Costa Rica. But it’s the second time a country has asked Costa Rican authorities to hand Koziy over.
Koziy has rejected the charges against him in the past, but he has refused to speak to foreign reporters since being discovered in Costa Rica, and has not spoken to local reporters since the late 1980s.
Koziy has been in Costa Rica as a dependent of his wife, who became a legal resident after the couple arrived from the United States. That status allows him to stay — but not to enter or leave the country — without a passport.
Koziy immigrated to the United States after World War II and gained citizenship under an assumed name. It was not until the early 1980s, by which time he owned a motel in Florida, that his true identity was revealed by Nazi hunters.
The U.S. Justice Department obtained a court order to deport Koziy in 1984, but he fled to Costa Rica.
Koziy hoped to live a quiet life in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the hills overlooking Costa Rica’s picturesque Central Valley. However, in 1987 he faced extradition to the Soviet Union on charges that he helped the Nazi occupation of territories that were part of pre-war Poland and now fall within Ukraine.
Koziy would have been extradited but then-President Oscar Arias, the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner, blocked it at the last moment by playing on local anti-Communist sentiment. Arias had been under intense pressure from the influential local Catholic archbishop, Roman Arrieta.
After that, Koziy’s stay in Costa Rica was tranquil until 1994, when the World Jewish Congress launched a campaign to have him expelled. The country rebuffed those efforts until 2000, when Koziy’s expulsion was ordered.
However, he has been allowed to remain in Costa Rica since the country can’t expel him unless another nation is willing to take him.
Koziy is believed to be the only accused war criminal to have made his way to Costa Rica, a country that declared war on Nazi Germany a day before the United States did, and which long has been an ally of Israel.