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Tortola wants three to answer drug charges

Tortola wants three to answer drug charges

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Three Vincentian men are being sought by law enforcement authorities in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, to answer charges of involvement in the importation of just over 61 kilos of cocaine into that country in January 2008.{{more}}

Dexter Chance, 37, businessman of Layou; Gareth McDowall of Calliaqua and Carlos Sutherland of Lowmans Windward were all remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison after being brought to the Serious Offences Court on Monday, April 27, under the guard of heavily armed police officers.

An extradition hearing will be held next Tuesday, May 5, at the Court, to ascertain whether or not the men will be extradited to Tortola to be tried there.

Lawyers Kay Bacchus-Browne and Grant Connell together represent accused McDowall and Chance, while Joseph Delves represents Sutherland.

Rising on behalf on her clients, Bacchus-Browne indicated to the court that the defence was at a major disadvantage since they had not seen the charges or any evidence. She noted that only a copy of the arrest warrant, signed by the Chief Magistrate, was given to them on the morning of the men’s court appearance.

Arrest warrants were issued for the men under the Fugitive Offenders Act after law officials carried out major sting operations on several homes throughout the country on Saturday, April 25, 2009. Bacchus-Browne pointed out to Chief Magistrate Sonya Young that she (Young) had no jurisdiction over the matter. Up in arms about her clients being denied bail, Bacchus-Browne mentioned that the Fugitive Offenders Act did not apply to her clients since they were not in Tortola at the time of the alleged offence.

Bacchus-Browne noted that before they (the lawyers) intervened, according to instructions received, the police were trying to whisk their clients to Tortola behind their backs. She said she was further instructed that two “white men” told her clients, who were being kept at the Biabou Police Station, that they were going to be kept at a safe house and then taken to Tortola. “They are trying to play with us. Our clients never went to Tortola, and how could a person be a fugitive, if he has never even gone to that country?” she noted.

In opposing the men’s bail, Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams, said that bail was hardly ever considered in extradition matters. The DPP mentioned the case of Cecil Boatswain, now deceased, who had been granted bail in the High Court on a habeas corpus application, pending an extradition hearing.

Williams told the court that the extradition proceedings were frustrated when there was an apparent “first death” of Boatswain when he was reported as having drowned. However, a few months later, his bullet-riddled body was discovered in Dominica. Williams drew to the court’s attention that Boatswain’s case was intricately connected with the proceedings. He said that one of the accused had signed Boatswain’s bail.

“It is a proceeding that we are ready to deal with at a moment’s notice, and our arresting officers are going to serve the documents in which the application was grounded,” Williams said. (KW)

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