Belizean attorney Andrew Bennett appeared in court this morning for arraignment on a US extradition request and was granted bail in the sum of one hundred thousand dollars. As we have reported, Bennett is facing multiple indictments in the US for money laundering. He appeared before Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser this morning along with his attorney Anthony Sylvester. Solicitor General Nigel Hawke prosecuted for the Crown and made a no bail submission but Attorney Anthony Sylvester argued successfully for bail to be granted. Both Hawke and Sylvester spoke tot eh media after the hearing.
Nigel Hawke- Solicitor General:
We issued our formal objection because of our treaty obligations in respects to bail. You heard the submissions on the other side in respect to bail. The court agrees with those submissions. He has the jurisdiction to do the release of bail and bail was granted. So at this point the proceedings are deemed open so there isn’t much we can say until we really get to the beginning of things.
Anthony Sylvester- Attorney at law:
We have made the point that, yes, while it may have been the case that persons who may have been arraigned on extradition weren’t granted bail but there are circumstances or facts which distinguish this defendant’s case, Mr Bennett’s case from there’s. Such as for instance, where a person has committed an offense, say, in the United States, and fled to this jurisdiction, then clearly these would be compelling reasons why a person would not be granted bail. We also stressed the fact that, since the coming to be of our constitution, that this extradition proceedings, whereas in the past they have been conducted differently. But know they should be now conducted with respect to an awareness that the fact that a person does have constitutional rights. One of those very important fundamental right is that they should not be deprived of their liberty except in occurrence with law and that when the principals in respect to bail where considered in all the circumstances this defendant ought to have been granted bail and so we are grateful for that. Way back as the 28th of December he knew about the request, he didn’t flee; because that’s one of the things that the court has to consider in general, to determine whether the government may be potentially violating the Treaty or reaching the Treaty obligation. If bail is granted will the person return? Or so we stress or we show that look way back as the 28th of December he got knowledge of this, thanks to you guys, in the media. Later on he acknowledge that the minister signed the other for the process to actually start. Then the warrant which was issued by the court for his arrest. He knew about that and complied voluntary, tendering, surrendered himself and those are things which show that he has no intention of going anywhere and that he will be in court on the second and every other occasion in which the court orders the situation to continue.
Again, bail was set at 100 thousand dollars on the condition that Bennett surrenders his travel documents, report to the Queen Street police station twice a week and return to court on February 2.