Terraform Labs founder and former fugitive Do Kwon is currently in a Montenegro jail awaiting likely indictment for alleged document forgery. Protos spoke to a criminal defense lawyer in the country to learn what daily life is now like for Kwon — and it’s a world away from the luxury of the private jet he attempted to board before his arrest.
In 2020, a human rights report by the US Department of State detailed grim conditions of overcrowding and aggressive treatment by staff in Montenegro jails and prisons. According to the criminal defense lawyer, who asked not to be named, “things haven’t changed since the report.”
“Upon arrest, you’re held in quarantine for 10 days to ensure you’re not suffering from Covid-19,” they told Protos. “The rooms are pretty okay — you’re sharing with just one or two people. But after the quarantine period, detainees are moved to a general facility along with others awaiting trial.”
The conditions here are far worse than quarantine. “Rooms are 8 meters squared and very crowded,” the lawyer explained. “There’s about 10 to 11 people in a room — there’s usually not even a bed.“
Detainees are granted a 30-minute “walk around the block” each day, and can buy basic goods like cigarettes and coffee from the commissary.
Do Kwon can expect a lengthy stay in Montenegro
Hopes of a speedy extradition to countries with friendlier prison conditions like South Korea or the US, which both have filed their own criminal charges against Kwon, are likely to be dashed. South Korea and the US officially requested extradition on Wednesday.
Justice Minister Marko Kovac held a press conference on Wednesday confirming that extradition proceedings have commenced, on the grounds that international arrest warrants were issued prior to Kwon’s arrest in the country. He told reporters that Singapore, which recently opened an official investigation into Kwon, has not requested extradition as of yet.
Regarding which country may ‘win’ extradition, Kovac explained: “When we receive several extradition requests it’s based on several factors — the severity of the offence, the location and the time, and the order that we received the request, and several other factors.” Ultimately, it’s up to Montenegro courts to decide, but Kovac’s comments suggest that South Korea has the upper hand.
The criminal defense lawyer told Protos they think that it’ll be “at least a year” before any extradition agreements can be made. Kwon will first be tried in Montenegrin court for his criminal charges there. “A trial can take around four to five months,” the lawyer said. The prosecutor handling Kwon’s case told reporters that Montenegro intends to indict Kwon within a month.
The Terraform Labs founder denies charges and has already filed an appeal. His lawyer told South Korean reporters on Wednesday that if the appeal fails — and it likely will, according to the lawyer Protos spoke to — he will appeal to the higher court in Montenegro. But appeals can take at least three to four months, the lawyer explained, and it doesn’t stop sentencing from being carried out in the meantime. If an appeal to the higher court fails, Kwon is only able to appeal to the Supreme Court after serving one year of his sentence.
According to the lawyer, the details of Kwon’s case are likely to result in a prison sentence of six months to five years if he’s found guilty. If indicted, extradition procedures can take at least four to five months.
It looks like Kwon should get used to local prison conditions for the foreseeable future.