A Nigerian man wanted for killing a Thai jewelry dealer in her Bangkok hotel room in 2019 is trying a third time to get out of a Canadian jail due to delays in extraditing him to Thailand.
John Odoemenam, who also went by the names “Mzwake Memela” and “Prince Michael Obi”, was captured when he arrived in Canada in March 2019, two days after allegedly bludgeoning and strangling Susama Ruenrit at a hotel on Lat Phrao Soi 130 and jumping on a flight Hong Kong.
Susama had gone to the hotel to deliver an expensive piece of custom-made jeweler to a customer, believed to be Odoemenam. Married to a Nigerian, with two children, Susama traveled between the countries as a gem dealer and creator of custom pieces.
Thai police, at the time, promised that Odoemenam would be extradited back to Thailand within “two or three weeks” but the process has dragged on for more than two years due to Thailand’s half-hearted assurances that the Nigerian would not face the death penalty. Since his arrest, he has languished in British Columbia’s North Fraser Pretrial Centre for more than 1,200 days.
Canada abolished the death penalty entirely in 1998 and, in 2001, its Supreme Court ruled that it would be unconstitutional to extradite someone without a guarantee they would not face state execution.
Thailand, however, has no law on the books to allow the Foreign Ministry to give such assurances and the two countries’ extradition treaty doesn’t include a death-penalty clause.
Canada’s attorney general first requested an assurance via a diplomatic note in July 2020. While Thai authorities provided one in September that year, Canadian officials weren’t satisfied with it and the two sides continued to exchange diplomatic notes and from October 2020 to July 2021. Thailand still wouldn’t give a rock-solid assurance and the issue was brought up in monthly meetings from July 2021 to March this year.
Finally, in May, Thailand gave its third written assurance, adding that, if convicted, Odoemenam would receive credit for his nearly three years of time served in Canada.
During that time, the Nigerian repeatedly asked Canadian courts to free him, arguing the government lacked sufficient cause under the Extradition Act to keep him jailed.
Two petitions were rejected. He now has gone to the British Columbia Supreme Court for a third try, arguing Canada’s diplomatic corps botched the extradition process and cannot hold him any longer.
A judge earlier opined that the criminal case against Odoemenam was “entirely circumstantial,” but that had no bearing on whether he could be extradited. And, even if it takes years, he must remain in custody, the judge ruled.