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Enforcement and Removal
04/14/2011

ICE returns Lebanese fugitive to Germany to face murder charges

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A citizen of Lebanon, who fled to the United States to avoid prosecution in Germany for murder, was turned over to German authorities Thursday following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to court documents, Taleb Hussein Zaaiter, 44, used a butcher knife to stab his German wife 30 times in 1992 while they lived in Katernberg-Essen, Germany. He fled the country the next day, and was living abroad before moving to the Detroit area prior to his arrest late last year at the Ambassador Bridge.

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and German agents of the Essen Police Department.

"This investigation and extradition is an sterling example of the cooperation we enjoy with our federal and international law enforcement partners," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Detroit. "Our country will not be a safe haven from justice for those commit crimes abroad."

On Jan. 26, 2011, German authorities obtained Zaaiter's DNA, pursuant to a search warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, while he was pending extradition proceedings. German authorities were subsequently able to match saliva DNA from Zaaiter with DNA from hair and fingernail fragments recovered from the victim's hands.

On March 8, 2011, Zaaiter waived his extradition hearing in U.S. District Court, and an order was issued directing that he be turned over to German authorities to face the 1992 murder charge. ICE HSI special agents, federal prosecutors, and the U.S. Marshals Service turned Zaaiter over to German authorities Thursday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport for his return to Germany.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen Frank, Western District of Michigan, represented the German government in the investigation and extradition proceedings, consistent with treaties between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany.