Roman Dorfman’s name may sound familiar to those who have been following the case of the Israeli citizen against whom the Interpol issued an international warrant arrest, as per the request of Belarus on fraud charges, in the Israeli and Russian press. However, Dorfman’s case is worthy of attention not because of the magnitude of his alleged fraud, but rather because it highlights the qualitative difference in judicial practices between two countries, Romania and Hungary.
Born in Moldova but living in Safed, Israel, Roman Dorfman, 38, an Israeli citizen, was arrested in Romania in February this year after Belarus issued an arrest warrant for him through Interpol. The arrest took place while Dorfman was on his way to the funeral of his mother, who died in a fire in Chișinău, Moldova.
According to the indictment, Dorfman sold tickets for around €15,500 (around HUF 5.7 million) for a car and motorcycle show in Belarus, but at the last minute, the show did not go ahead and Dorfman did not refund the ticket prices to his clients. Mr. Dorfman denies the charges and claims that he was a partner in a local company, which organized similar events and was nationalized by the government; that is why he left the country and was then prosecuted without his presence or knowledge. He could face between three to seven years in prison.
The sentence is particularly severe and almost unheard of for fraud of this value in the Western world, especially as Dorfman has also shown a willingness to compensate the Belarusian people for the damage caused. However, Minsk insisted on Dorfman’s detention and issued a warrant for his arrest.
The case took a particular twist after Dorfman’s arrest in Romania when a Romanian court granted Dorfman’s extradition to Belarus a week ago. The extradition is unprecedented for several reasons and deserves public attention:
„First and foremost, it is almost unprecedented in international law for a court to order extradition at the request of another country in a case involving only €15,500,” – Israeli lawyer Mordechai Tzivin, who has been with Dorfman from the beginning, told Neokohn.
Mr. Tzivin has decades of experience in Interpol extraditions and international law, having defended clients not only in Israel, but also in a number of Eastern European and Arab countries, including Syria and Iraq.
„But what is really surprising,” Tzivin says, „is that the Romanian judge, after requesting an opinion from both the Romanian Justice and Foreign Ministries on human rights and prison conditions in Belarus, decided to extradite Dorfman despite the fact that both state bodies had a very negative opinion of the human rights situation in Minsk.”
Asked how much these circumstances have changed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Tzivin pointed out that
„the human rights situation has certainly deteriorated to a great extent, and Belarus’ further isolation from Western countries has also negatively affected human rights issues.”
Hungary, on the other hand, has not only recognized the situation in Belarus, but has also recognized that foreign nationals should not be handed over to the Belarusian authorities in a case like this. Dorfman had already been arrested in Hungary in 2020 on the basis of a Belarusian arrest warrant, but the Hungarian authorities released him precisely because of the human rights conditions and for the fear he may not get a fair trial in Belarus.
It is particularly noteworthy that in 2020 Hungarian-Belarusian relations were particularly good and the deterioration of the judicial situation due to the growing influence of Russia had not yet had any effect.
„I am committed to ensuring that my client receives a fair trial and that the Romanian court will not extradite him to Belarus under any circumstances, and I will fight for this with all means at my disposal, including turning to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and – because my client is a Moldovan citizen as well – to the Human Rights Council of the UN, to the European Union and to the European Commission itself”
– said Tzivin, who added, that
„After many years of working together, I have contacted Gilles William Goldnadel, a renowned French lawyer whose organisation, Avocats Sans Frontières, has a wealth of experience in human rights issues and he will help us with our case.”
An expert who asked not to be named told our news site that it is unprecedented that while Hungary is often seen as the „black sheep of Europe” and Romania is considered exemplary in the Western world, Romania is the one capable of extraditing a foreigner citizen accused of petty fraud to a country where human rights are trampled underfoot.