According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a Delaware federal grand jury has returned a two-count indictment against Benjamin John Soliman Defensor, III charging him with international parental kidnapping. The indictment alleges that, in May 2005, Defensor took his three children from Delaware to the Philippines with the intent of obstructing the custody rights of the children’s mother, in violation of a Delaware Family Court order expressly prohibiting him from taking the children out of Delaware. Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, stated:
The abduction of a child from the United States to a foreign country is a serious offense. Individuals who illegally remove children from the United States to thwart a parent’s legal custody rights are in violation of federal law. This District has and will continue to pursue parental kidnapping offenders.
If authorities succeed in securing Defensor’s extradition to the United States and he’s convicted, he faces up to three years in prison on each kidnapping count. FBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the Baltimore Division, Leo Taddeo says, “This Indictment and arrest warrant is an important step toward bringing Mr. Defensor to the U.S. to face charges. The FBI will continue to work with Interpol and its international partners to see that justice is done.”
The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) can be an important law enforcement tool for securing the return of parentally abducted kids from countries that have not ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. However, in order for a defendant to be extradited back to the U.S. to face criminal charges, the destination country and the United States must have entered into a bilateral criminal extradition treaty that covers the charged crime. And, in reality, many countries will not extradite their own citizens, even if there is an applicable extradition treaty in place. Nonetheless, an IPKCA arrest warrant can also serve as the legal basis for an Interpol Notice, which can result in the alleged parental kidnapper’s arrest in the event that he or she attempts international travel to a third country that is willing to extradite to the United States. An important if counterintuitive caveat: even if the alleged abductor is extradited and convicted, that does not guarantee that the foreign country will also repatriate the abducted children to the United States – the left-behind parent may still be forced to rely on diplomatic negotiations or take legal action in the foreign family court in order to secure the kids’ return.