On January 5, 1999, Thai-born Jean-Marc Sirichai broke into a house in Eppeldorf, northwest of Luxembourg. The woman who lived there, aged 70, discovered it. In the struggle, he killed her. He then set the house on fire and tried to escape, but was arrested and later sentenced to 4,200 days (11.5 years) in prison. In October 2004, Sirichai disappeared while on leave and since then his life has turned a thousand times. He lived on the streets in Brussels, in Metz (France) and in Paris, where he was arrested for illegal stay. Sirichai gave French authorities his Thai identity and was not identified as a fugitive from Luxembourg.
The man was freed in France and traveled to Barcelona, Valencia and finally ended up in Punta Umbría (Huelva, 15,242 inhabitants). There he rebuilt his life, found a partner and has a daughter. In August 2020, after 16 years on the run, Luxembourg’s most wanted fugitive was arrested by the National Police. Everything seemed to indicate that he would be handed over to finish serving the almost nine years of his remaining sentence. However, a year later he was released in Spain and remains so.
What happened to this unexpected script twist? The key is how old Sirichai was when he committed the crimes. He was born on January 6, 1981, so that January 5, 1999, he had one day to go to his 18th birthday. Luxembourg imposed the prison sentence on him as of legal age, because that is how they consider in that country those who are over 16 years old.
After his escape, he became the most wanted fugitive in Luxembourg and, since 2016, was also a European priority. Someone saw him on the Europe most wanted fugitives website and notified him of his presence in Punta Umbría.
In October 2020, the Central Criminal Court of the National High Court recognized the Luxembourg sentence of 4,200 days in prison and, at Sirichai’s request, decided that they continue to serve it in Spain. However, the fugitive’s lawyer, Óscar Vázquez, appealed this decision and made the central judge see that, in the eyes of the Spanish justice system, his client was a minor when he committed the crime. On September 10, the central judge himself annulled his order, referred the case to the juvenile judge, and to the further annoyance of the Luxembourg prosecutor’s office, Sirichai was released provisionally with precautionary measures.
A month later, on October 8, the central juvenile court declared itself incompetent to recognize the sentence. He explained that the Luxembourg courts imposed a sentence of imprisonment, but not an internment measure, as would have happened in Spain with a 17-year-old. For this reason, he considered it the competence of the central criminal court, to which he returned the matter. The decision was appealed by the lawyer, but the Criminal Chamber of the Second Section of the National Court rejected it. Now, the ball follows the roof of the central court, where a judge must now decide if Sirichai must serve his sentence under the same terms set by the Luxembourg Court – as requested by the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office – or if he adapts that sentence to the legislation of minors and, therefore, imposes an internment measure on him.
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Óscar Vázquez trusts that the judge, knowing now that the Luxembourgish man was a minor on the day of the events, will decide on the internment, which, taking into account the time that he has spent deprived of liberty in both countries, would probably mean that he would remain permanently in custody. Liberty. His lawyer affirms that, in addition to his family roots, he is rehabilitated, has worked as a painter or waiter at a beach bar – always without a contract according to police sources – and is someone very loved and recognized in Punta Umbría. When the National Police showed his photo to Local Police officers last summer, one of them recognized it easily even though it was taken two decades ago. “Everyone knows him,” says Vázquez.
Meanwhile, the Luxembourg justice fires sparks. Its general prosecutor’s office published a statement in September complaining that Spain had not applied “the principle of mutual recognition” of custodial sentences. The state attorney general, Martine Solovieff, highlighted to the media in her country her “frustration” and issued a new international arrest warrant so that, in the event that Sirichai leaves Spain, he can be detained. The National Police, for its part, considers that its work is done. “We bring the fugitives to justice, from then on, we don’t decide,” say sources from the group of fugitives that arrested Sirichai. This was approached a few weeks ago by a journalist from the RTL channel in Luxembourg. He did not want to speak before the camera, but said: “My act is unforgivable!”, According to the communicator Dan Wiroth, to whom Sirichai told that there is no future for him “without having drawn a line with the past.” At the moment, he balances between freedom and some 3,000 days in prison.