Colombia extradites celebrity designer to US over illegal leathers

Colombian designer Nancy Gonzalez in New York in 2012 (Jamie McCarthy)
Colombian designer Nancy Gonzalez in New York in 2012 (Jamie McCarthy)

Colombia has extradited to the United States a celebrity fashion designer wanted for the alleged smuggling of protected animal skin purses, police in the South American country said Wednesday.

Nancy Gonzalez's purses, clutches and wallets sell for thousands of US dollars apiece, have appeared on catwalks and TV shows and grace the shelves of high-end shops around the globe.

But the Colombian, 78, was arrested in July 2022 in the city of Cali on accusations related to more than 200 of the caiman- and python-skin products that were allegedly imported illegally and sold in the United States.

Individuals were allegedly paid to bring the bags from Colombia to New York on commercial flights, and coached to lie about the provenance of the goods if asked.

Some of the skins were allegedly from species that were either protected or in danger of extinction, police official Jose Luis Ramirez said in a video sent to media.

Gonzalez was sent to the United States along with her business partner Diego Mauricio Rodriguez, the police said, without specifying when. The pair is wanted in the Southern District of Florida.

She risks a 25-year prison term.

According to her website, Gonzalez's bags are handcrafted in her native Cali by a team of artisans.

The site says her bags are sold at over 300 luxury retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrod’s and Tsum.

Her designs were also featured in an exhibition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Among Gonzalez's famous clients are Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham.