BRAZIL: The Improbable David

When Rio's police scooped up Lowell McAfee Birrell, 52, a month ago, it seemed likely that Brazil would deport him posthaste. Indicted in Manhattan on 69 counts of grand larceny and held on suspicion of entering Brazil on a false passport, the man accused of stealing $14 million worth of stock from a pair of U.S. companies appeared certain to end up inside a U.S. courtroom, even though the U.S. and Brazil do not have an extradition treaty.

Instead, Birrell last week was still safe —though technically under custody—in Brazil, reveling in the unaccustomed role of a rich-but-heroic David pitted...

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