Accused drug trafficker Gary Gordon Seawell had his day in court today. He is accused of masterminding a large-scale cocaine moving operation between Belize and the U.S. state of Ohio from 1994 to 1997.
But American authorities waited more than nine years to begin the process of extraditing him. They won the opening round when Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith ruled that Seawell should be extradited. But his attorney, Arthur Saldivar, argued that the Chief Magistrate did not look at the whole picture.
He renewed his argument that the documents supplied by the U.S. government were insufficient as there was no evidence that the persons providing the deposition knew or swore to knowing the consequences for telling lies. If the documents were not admissible, then they did not count and there was no case to answer.
The second ground concerned that delay of nine years to the start of the extradition proceeding, coupled with a further six years before the case went to hearing last October.
Saldivar insisted that his client was not the cause of the delay, and it didn’t really matter whose fault it was because the end result would be the same: Seawell would not receive a fair trial in the United States and did not receive a fair trial here.
Whether deliberate or accidental, the delay was an abuse of process and for that reason Seawell should not be extradited, as in his own view he would not able to properly account for where he was and what he did at the time, or bring credible witnesses to do so.
In reply, Dr. Illiana Swift of the Solicitor General’s Office stated that the court was only responsible for looking at whether the accused was properly detained, and it was clear that authorities had gone to the local judge and notary public and followed procedure.
She added that it was not for Belize to determine how the laws of the United States applied in this case, and that Seawell had not sufficiently proven that it would be unjust and oppressive for him to be extradited because his claims could be addressed in the U.S. court system. Justice Michelle Arana reserved her judgment.