Source AP ©

Australian fugitive Tony Mokbel to fight extradition request by Australia

Australian fugitive Tony Mokbel told Greek authorities he would fight an extradition request by Australia for him to stand trial there for murder and drug trafficking.

Mokbel, a convicted cocaine trafficker, was arrested in a seaside suburb of Athens on Tuesday after fleeing Australia in March 2006. He is being held in custody on an international arrest warrant and Greek charges of holding a false passport.

Mokbel, 41, appeared Wednesday before public prosecutor Giorgos Pantelis.

The Australian's lawyer, Yiannis Vlachos, said Mokbel was asked whether he would agree to the extradition procedure, and that his client declined.

Under extradition regulations, the process is speeded up if the suspect agrees to the request. If they refuse, a court can review the case and order them to comply.

Greek judges are now awaiting further documentation from the Australian courts, detailing the charges against him before the extradition procedure is formally started.

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said the Australian government had 45 days from the date of arrest to formally request extradition.

The spokesman said the international warrant was based on four Australian warrants: For the alleged importation of 2.9 kilograms (6.4 pounds) of cocaine, allegedly ordering 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of amphetamine and another substance from Europe, three counts of trafficking drugs, and the murder of underworld figure Lewis Moran.

Mokbel was led to the court Thursday in handcuffs and escorted by plain clothed policemen.

One of Australia's most wanted men, Mokbel absconded during his trial in Australia on charges of drugs trafficking. He was later convicted in absentia of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to at least nine years in prison. He has also since been charged with murder and money laundering.

Australian authorities had offered an Australian $1 million (EUR620,000; US$840,000) reward for information leading to his arrest, and cooperated closely with Greek police before his arrest.

Greece and Australia have an extradition treaty effective since 1991.

Following Mokbel's arrest this week, Australian police raided 22 houses in Melbourne, arresting 14 people and seizing drugs and more than Australian $790,000 (EUR492,300; US$664,785) in cash.

Police said five of the suspects were leading members of an amphetamine-manufacturing network.

The raids were coordinated with Mokbel's arrest, Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon of Victoria Police said.

"It's one we have been planning to coincide with Tony Mokbel's arrest in Greece," she told Australia's Nine Network.

"It is his network that we are alleging is involved with him in drugs, transfer of funds, in fraud  a whole set of crimes that he and other people are responsible for."

She added: "It has been a very big operation and there still may be more to come."

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