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News Briefs II

Mexico Loosens Extradition Policy

Los Angeles Times

After decades of resistance, Mexico has quietly begun to extradite Mexicans accused of committing crimes in the United States, setting a precedent that U.S. officials said Sunday could be crucial in fighting the flourishing drug traffic in this country.

"For us, the extradition question is in the top cluster of issues" between the two countries, a senior Clinton administration official said in a telephone interview Sunday.

"They (Mexican leaders) are showing dramatic signs of political will by being willing to do things Mexico has never done before," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The two Mexicans sent to face charges in Arizona and Texas this month not traffickers. One is a convicted child molester; the other was sought on murder charges. But experts said the extraditions could result in Mexico sending accused drug lords to face U.S. courts, where officials in Washington believe they stand a greater chance of being convicted and receiving stiff sentences.

The extraditions "send a very clear signal that if you're a big organized-crime leader, don't expect to get any safe haven, either in the United States or Mexico, whatever your nationality," U.S. Ambassador James R. Jones said.

The extraditions of Francisco Gamez and Aaron Morel Lebaron are believed to be the first ever of Mexicans to the United States, U.S. officials said. They were the fruit of years of tough negotiations between U.S. and Mexican officials, culminating in the recent visit to Mexico of a delegation led by President Clinton's new drug czar, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey.

U.S. Regulators Could Finish Lloyds

Los Angeles Times

Actions by American state securities regulators could jeopardize the survival of troubled Lloyds of London, the giant London insurance market, a Lloyds official said Monday.

U.S. insurance regulators say the collapse of a plan to rescue Lloyds could lead to a wave of insurance company insolvencies in this country, since many American insurance companies have insured part of their own risk with Lloyds.

Several states have taken steps to stop Lloyds from collecting money from Americans who are Lloyds "names" - individuals who put up their own money to cover the costs of the risks that Lloyds underwrites, with the potential for either steep losses or heavy profits.

The states contend that the individual investments are securities. They allege that Lloyds violates state securities laws by failing to warn American investors of huge possible risk from claims related to such hazards as asbestos.

Lloyds, which hotly contests the characterization of the investments as securities, lost about $12 billion in the five years ending in 1992, largely to claims related to asbestos, pollution, hurricanes and floods.

In Washington, Peter Lane, Lloyds' managing director for North America, said in an interview that if California and other states succeeded in seizing money in the trust funds, "there would be a substantial risk of Lloyds being pushed into a runoff." That term of British law means Lloyds would be banned from selling new insurance and would have to wind down its existing policies.