On Wednesday, 29 year old Rohn Knowles and 34 year old Kelvin Leach, who have been in prison since September 15 after being picked up by local authorities at the Philip Goldson International Airport in Ladyville apparently trying to leave the country, were scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court seeking bail.
They pleaded not guilty to failing to declare monies above BZ$10,000 to authorities and granted bail, but immediately detained on a warrant for extradition, though no corresponding request for extradition has been made.
But the matter which was to have been heard before Justice Denis Hanomansingh was adjourned to next Monday, September 29. Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, the attorney for Knowles, tells us why.
“The non-event was that today was scheduled to be the bail application for the two petitioners Leach and Knowles. We got here only to be informed or the judge when we were ready to start the case, we were informed that neither of the two gentlemen had been brought down from the Kolbe facility and as a result…well in addition to that the other side asked for some more time to be able to respond to our written submissions. The position is adjourned until Monday the twenty ninth, next week.”
“At this point has an extradition request been formally entered requesting your clients?”
“Our information from government counsel is that no formal application for extradition has been made to the government of Belize.”
“So then how long can they justifiably remain remanded if there is no such extradition request forthcoming?”
“Under the treaty, sixty days from the time that they were apprehended.”
Answering concerns that the men would skip bail if so granted, Leach’s attorney Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay says there is no evidence yet presented that suggests that would be the case – and that their actions at the Airport itself are not suspicious.
“Well I think the first thing to say is that our instructions are very clear that our clients have no intentions of leaving this jurisdiction, no intention to flee. In order to deny them their freedom I think there has to be sufficient evidence. The government so far has not provided any evidence, they have given leave by the court to file evidence to file any risk that they may perceive and that risk has to be rare. So as we stand here we are aware of no evidence and no reason to believe that these gentlemen are intending to or likely to flee Belize.”
“Does it count that they have been wrongfully caught at the airport once already?”
“They weren’t caught at the airport at all and I think that’s a mistake. These gentlemen were assured by the Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the highest level, that they were free to leave this jurisdiction. Unfortunately they were stopped by someone at the airport who was not aware that they were given permission being granted, and then a search was effected.
Interestingly as you know, a charge was then presented against them, for which they were given bail. It was immediately then after that the US authorities sprung into action and made the request for the provisional arrest of our clients.
All of that to say is that my client and Mr. Smith’s client had no intention of fleeing, still have no intention of fleeing, what they were doing was in the open, you cannot flee in the open from an international airport.”
Knowles and Leach are charged along with Belizean Andrew Godfrey, American Robert Bandfield, and Canadians Brian De Wit and Cem Can for alleged involvement in a billion-dollar scheme to defraud the U.S. Government of taxes. The offices of Titan at the Matalon Building were raided by Police and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as well as other offshore companies caught up in the Except for Bandfield none of the remaining suspects have been picked up. Appearing for the Government for the first time was Solicitor General Anita Jackson, joined by deputy Nigel Hawke.