Friday, April 27, 2007

Cuban fugitive lived mostly in Europe, lawyer says

Posted on Fri, Apr. 27, 2007

Cuban fugitive lived mostly in Europe, lawyer says

The man Cuba expelled this week argued openly with a Miami judge about
who could represent him on the charge he jumped bail four decades ago.

Joseph Adjmi, expelled from Havana this week after 42 years as a
fugitive, may not have lived in Cuba more than two years, having spent
much of his life in Europe, a prominent attorney in Israel told The
Miami Herald.

The mystery surrounding Adjmi, 70 -- and where he went when he jumped
bail in 1965 after a Tampa jury convicted him of mail fraud -- took new
twists Thursday as the frail and distraught man argued spiritedly with
Magistrate Judge Peter Palermo in Miami federal court over who should
represent him.

Having fled a 10-year sentence, Adjmi was back on U.S. soil and ready to
hold his ground. Asked by Palermo if he wanted counsel, Adjmi pointed to
private attorney Richard Moore, who was wearing a yarmulke and sitting
in the courtroom.

''I want him,'' Adjmi said.

Instead Palermo appointed public defender Hector Dopico and set
arraignment for May 1.

''I refuse,'' Adjmi shot back after arguing with the judge about his
need to get out of jail.

''If I can't get out in one or two days, I know I'll have trouble,''
said a shackled and handcuffed Adjmi. ``I am not well. . . . I want to
be safe.''

Appearing disoriented, Adjmi kept looking around the courtroom as if
expecting to see a familiar face.

Hours earlier, attorney Mordechai Tzivin contacted The Miami Herald from
Tel Aviv to say he represented Adjmi. He said Adjmi had spent most of
his time hiding in Europe, that he had been in Cuba only two years and
that the Cubans deported his client to the United States in violation of
a promise to expel him to Israel.

''Unfortunately they didn't keep their word, and he was not expelled to
Israel,'' Tzivin said.

U.S. officials familiar with Adjmi's expulsion from Cuba said they could
not confirm Tzivin's assertions. But they added that they would not
dispute them either.

Tzivin said he was contacted by Adjmi's family but refused to say who
they were or where they live -- only that they were not in Israel.
Tzivin said the family contacted him because ``of my international

Tzivin has represented controversial figures outside Israel or Israeli
and Jewish prisoners in other countries who seek to resettle in Israel.
One of his most recent clients is a man indicted in Romania who
allegedly fled to Syria.

Adjmi, Tzivin said, arrived in Cuba as a visitor two years ago allegedly
carrying a false Israeli passport and almost $100,000. About six months
later, Tzivin said, Adjmi was detained by Cuban authorities and charged
in connection with the passport and carrying the money.

During that time, the Israeli lawyer said, he obtained a travel document
for Adjmi, who is Jewish, from Israeli officials and a promise from
Cuban officials that his client would be expelled to Israel.

When Adjmi fled Tampa, his attorneys at the time -- Frank Ragano, Jacob
Kossman and Alvin Malnik -- were prominent defenders of organized crime
figures, such as Jimmy Hoffa and Santo Trafficante. Ragano and Kossman
are now dead, and Malnik could not be found.

Officials at the Israeli consulate in Miami said they had no information
on Adjmi and any connections with that country. Dopico declined comment.

Tzivin said Adjmi spent most of the last four decades in Europe, but he
would not specify where on the continent. Tzivin said he was not yet
ready to reveal all that he knew about his client's years as a fugitive.

On arrival Wednesday at Miami International Airport, Adjmi was carried
from the plane to a van and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital because
he complained of feeling ill during the trip from Cuba.

But Adjmi was released from the hospital early Thursday and locked up at
the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami.

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