Arms dealer in Menem case extradited to Argentina for questioning
BUENOS AIRES (AFP) Dec 05, 2002
A French-US weapons dealer extradited from Switzerland arrived here Thursday for questioning in an arms smuggling case involving former president Carlos Menem.

The dealer, Jean-Bernard Lasnaud, was handed over to police at Buenos Aires's Ezeiza's airport amid high security.

In July 2001, Argentine authorities charged Menem -- who led Argentina from 1989 to 1999 -- with conspiring in the sale of arms sales to Ecuador and Croatia while both countries were under a UN embargo.

Menem, who is again running for president, was placed under house arrest for 167 days in 2001 because of his alleged involvement, but was released after a judge dropped charges, saying there was insufficient evidence.

Argentine prosecutors suspect Lasnaud was involved in the alleged deal and requested his extradition when he was arrested by Swiss police in May.

The Argentine arms trade case stems from the sales of 6,500 tonnes of weapons to Croatia and another 75 tonnes to Ecuador between 1991 and 1995, when both countries were involved in conflicts with their neighbours.

In an interview in October, Lasnaud told AFP in Geneva that he believed Menem was aware of the deal he helped broker to provide arms to Ecuador.

Lasnaud explained that he dealt with two Argentine military officers, retired colonel Diego Palleros, then a representative of the Argentine state agency in charge of weapons exports, and an Argentine navy captain, the late Horacio Estrada.

Lasnaud's lawyer, Marc Henzelin, said he will appeal the extradition order to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.