Australia's Minister for Justice and Customs, David Johnston, has confidentially approved the extradition of Indian origin rogue surgeon, Dr. Jayant Patel from the US.
The move is likely to trigger Dr Patel's arrest in his hometown in Oregon, where he has been living since he fled to the US.
Dr Patel, dubbed Dr. Death, has been linked to 17 deaths at Bundaberg Base Hospital, Queensland, during his two years as director of surgery at the hospital.
The government of Peter Beattie, Premier of Queensland, has been pressing for his extradition from the US.
According to a report in The Australian, the signing of the paperwork for Dr Patel's extradition is being regarded as the most significant development to date in the bid to have him returned to Brisbane for a criminal trial.
Dr. Patel fled to the US on April 1 2005 after allegations of medical incompetence were raised in the Queensland parliament.
Last November, warrants were issued for his arrest on a number of charges, including three of manslaughter and five of causing grievous bodily harm, and authorities are working to extradite him from the US.
Senator Johnston, who was in New Zealand yesterday, is expected to announce the latest step on his return to Australia.
Senator Johnston's chief of staff, Chris Muir, said: "The minister cannot confirm it and the minister cannot deny it - we cannot comment on this. I'm not saying it's right and I'm not saying it's wrong."
Dr. Patel does not have access to his passport and Queensland police do not regard him as a flight risk.
According to the paper, the next steps - including an arrest - are matters for US justice officials and US marshals, who have been briefed on the case by their counterparts in the office of the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions and federal government extradition experts.