Cuba hands over first US fugitive since diplomatic thaw

With US-Cuba relations evolving in the wake of a rapprochement announced in December 2014 by presidents Barack Obama (R) and Raul Castro, a dozen US congressmen on December 16 2015 launched a "Cuba working group" in the House of Representatives (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Miami (AFP) - Cuba has handed over a fugitive wanted by the United States in the first such move since a diplomatic thaw between the former Cold War foes, officials said.

Shawn Wegmann fled to Cuba by boat and was detained by authorities there on October 31, who subsequently notified their US counterparts.

"Wegmann is the first fugitive who has been returned to the United States by the Cuban government after fleeing to Cuba since diplomatic relations began nearly a year ago," US Marshal Amos Rojas Jr. said in a statement.

A team of US Marshals flew to Havana on Tuesday to pick up Wegmann, who had removed his GPS ankle monitor on October 23, alerting US authorities that something was amiss.

Wegmann appeared in a federal court in Miami on Wednesday and was ordered removed to Iowa, where he is wanted on a pre-trial release warrant linked to felony firearms charges.

Wegmann's transfer came just days before the first anniversary of the historic rapprochement between the two countries announced by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro last December 17.

Cuba and the United States have since reopened embassies in each other's capitals and announced a series of breakthroughs in talks on thawing their Cold War freeze.

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