|Wanted paedophile Wade Astle. — Photo courtesy Maricopa County Sheriffs department|
HÀ NỘI — Law enforcement officers in the US have praised the support and professionalism of their Vietnamese counterparts following the arrest in HCM City of a wanted child sex offender.
Wade Astle has been a fugitive for three years and even appeared on the ‘most wanted’ list of a county sheriff’s department in the state of Arizona.
But the 46-year-old paedophile is now in custody in California after a multi-agency operation spanning the globe.
“This story is really impressive, it’s the only way I can describe it,” Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told a news conference in the US last week.
“I'd like to express our gratitude to Việt Nam for their support, their passion and their interest in having a healthy relationship with us to address issues of crime that affect our nation as well as their own.
“It is amazing to think that the long arm of the law reached halfway across the world to get a predator off the street who was targeting children.”
Astle’s presence in Việt Nam was flagged when he went to the US Embassy in Hà Nội to apply for extra pages in his passport.
It is also understood he had been living in neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia but it was in Việt Nam where he was finally apprehended.
Officials at the Embassy and the US Consulate in HCM City became aware of his wanted status in America and began liaising with law enforcement in Việt Nam.
David Gonzales, US Marshall for Arizona, said: “This is a very, very unusual case where getting a fugitive out of a country like Việt Nam is very unusual.
“Not having arrest powers, and the US not having an extradition treaty with Việt Nam, Astle was released by the consulate.
“The consulate then notified the Ministry of Public Security in Việt Nam and gave the information on Astle and his background.
“There were some obvious concerns that in addition to being a fugitive, Astle might be involved in the exploitation of children in Việt Nam.”
It is not yet been determined if the predator was involved in exploiting children in Việt Nam, although a number of items including a computer, tablets, USB device and data storage equipment were seized upon his apprehension and are being checked.
Marshall Gonzales added: “The Vietnamese government officials don’t want these individuals in their country and the Vietnamese government is trying to have better relationships with the American government, especially when it comes to security issues.
“This case is the perfect example of where they went out of their way and we have to give them our gratitude for the cooperation and working with everybody on this case. I believe it is a sign to the American government that they want to work more closely on security issues.”
County Sheriff Penzone also told the news conference: “They (Việt Nam) played a critical part not only in our ability to be aware of his presence but to be able to track him and lead to the safe apprehension.
“I have to express my gratitude to all the other entities and the government of Việt Nam for their support and effort, I’m sure you can grasp the gravity and the complexities of a circumstance like this. To reach across the world to bring back a sexual predator and hold him accountable shows the commitment.”
After his arrest Astle was taken from HCM City to Hà Nội where he was met by US authorities. He was then flown to Guam before being transferred to the US. He is currently quarantined in California before he is due to answer for his crimes in Arizona.
In total, he is historically wanted in connection with 10 counts of the sexual exploitation of a minor. — VNS