FBI Wants Priest Extradited from India

India Abroad (New York)
June 6, 2003

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun extradition proceedings against Father Sleeva Raju Policetti, a Catholic priest who fled Chicago in May 2002.

Andhra Pradesh police officers arrested Policetti May 23 from Yamjal village near Hyderabad, following a request from Interpol.

The Andhra Pradesh police have requested their Chicago counterparts to furnish details of the sexual abuse charges the priest faces in the United States.

Policetti, 44, was working as assistant pastor at the St. Tarcissus Church in North Side Chicago, when he was accused of having sex with a minor repeatedly from January 1 to April 29, 2002.

A relative of the girl complained to the pastor of the church; the pastor informed the Chicago Archdiocese and they in turn informed the civil authorities.

Suspecting that Policetti would flee, the Chicago police dispatched detectives to O'Hare Airport May 6, 2002; Policetti had taken the flight out before the detectives got there.

The Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, issued an arrest warrant against Policetti May 16, 2002 for criminal sexual assault; bail was set at $500,000. The FBI got involved, and filed against him in the US District Court in Chicago May 23, 2002 charging unlawful flight.

Senior police officers in Hyderabad, who have been interrogating the accused, say Policetti has rejected the Chicago police's charges.

"He told us he was in love with the American girl and his physical relations with the girl was with her consent," M.L. Kumavat, Additional Director General of Police, told India Abroad.

Kumavat hinted that Policetti's extradition to the US is not "an easy task." Under the Extradition Treaty between India and the US signed in 1997, the Hyderabad police is duty-bound to hand over the accused to the Chicago police, but only after prescribed legal procedures are completed.

These procedures mandate that the Chicago police prove its charges of sexual abuse in a Hyderabad court. He can be extradited only if the Hyderabad court finds him guilty. "The procedure will take anywhere from two to six months," Kumavat said.

An FBI spokesperson agreed the process could take time. "We are also working with the Cook County State's Attorney's office and the Chicago Police Department to proceed in the case," she said.

"I am upset that a priest from my diocese has allegedly been involved in a sexual abuse case in the US," said Hyderabad Archbishop Marampudi Joji. "Since it is a serious charge, the diocese wants him to defend himself in court."

The archbishop said Policetti met him a couple of times after his return from the US and pleaded his innocence. He has no idea if Policetti was in love with the girl. "We sent him to America for pastoral work," the archbishop said.

Policetti is the second Indian Catholic priest to face sexual abuse charges. In March, the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn sentenced Father Francis X. Nelson to four months imprisonment for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in 1999.

Nelson, who belongs to the Catholic diocese of Kottar in Tamil Nadu, was working at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem when he allegedly molested the girl in her home in Brooklyn.


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