Travels out of country on emergency passport.
Christina Øygarden (20), one of three Norwegian girls jailed by authorities in Cochabamba on cocaine-smuggling charges, has escaped from Bolivia on an emergency passport.
Kjetil Elsebutangen, communications advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tells VG Bolivian authorities confiscated Øygarden’s passport after her arrest, but returned it to after she was released on bail last October.
“She applied for a new one at the end of January, saying her old passport had been damaged,” says Elsebutangen, confirming Øygarden had changed her last name, but before she requested her new passport.
Øygarden received her new documents from the Norwegian Consulate in La Paz on 08 January.
The embassy in Buenos Aires sent copies of both passports to the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs two days later.
“Bolivian authorities advised our embassy that the information had been sent to Interpol the same day. Øygarden contacted us by phone that evening confirming she was still in Cochabamba. We haven’t heard from her since,” Elsebutangen says.
“It’s unacceptable, and I think she’s made things worse for herself now. We believe she took part in smuggling the 22.4 kilos of cocaine. Why should she run if she were innocent?” says Cynthia O. Escobar, one of the public prosecutors involved in the case.
According to Escobar, Bolivian authorities have demanded her immediate arrest and will apply for her extradition from Norway, though the two countries have no agreement.
Madeleine Rodriguez, one of the other two Norwegians on trial, tells VG she fears Øygarden’s actions will make things worse.
“Our bail could now be even higher because Bolivian police say she’s escaped,” she says by phone from Cochabamba women’s prison.
However, Øygarden could face charges here instead. Norwegian criminal police (Kripos) have assisted Bolivian authorities in investigating the case, charging 20 people.
VG claims they were unaware of Øygarden’s arrival at Gardermoen yesterday afternoon.
“We’re going to make a decision about this as soon as possible,” says Joachim Staff, prosecutor for the police.
Meanwhile, Elsbutangen tells NRK Øygarden will not be extradited to Bolivia.
“Many countries don’t extradite their own nationals. This also applies to Norway,” he says.
Madeleine Rodriguez (23), Stina Brendemo Hagen (19), and Christina Øygarden (20), were arrested in May 2009 at Cochabamba airport for attempting to take out cocaine with a street value of approximately 20 million kroner.
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