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T&T men still to be sentenced
Four T&T nationals who were scheduled to be sentenced since 2011 by a United States judge for the kidnapping and subsequent death of US citizen Balram “Balo” Maharaj, will re-appear in a Washington court on Friday. The nationals—Jason Percival, former Defence Force soldier Leon Nurse, Winston Gittens and Russell Joseph—had pleaded guilty to charges arising out of the April 2005 kidnapping and subsequent death of Maharaj.
It is expected that their sentences can run from 15 to 25 years. However, their sentencing date will be deferred, since Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is yet to respond to representations made by attorneys seeking the interest of Doreen Alexander-Durity.
Alexander-Durity, 47, is wanted in the US for conspiring with others to kidnap Maharaj between January 1 and February 28, 2005. She is also accused of aiding and abetting the seizure or detention of Maharaj in order to compel another person to pay a ransom. Last year, she lost her attempt to block her extradition when Justice Frank Seepersad, presiding in the Port-of-Spain High Court, dismissed the habeas corpus application.
Following Seepersad’s ruling, Alexander-Durity’s attorneys David West and Daniel Khan made representations to Ramlogan outlining the reasons why she ought not be extradited. The attorneys, sources say, cited the 2011 case of businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson.
The businessmen, who were also United National Congress financiers, are wanted in the US on a series of money laundering charges. However, after countless court appearances at the High and Appeal Courts and the Privy Council, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in 2011 delivered a 57-page ruling which determined that any move to have the businessmen extradited would be “unjust, oppressive and unlawful.”
Ramlogan upheld the decision and did not appeal the judge’s decision.
Roles and functions of the Central Authority
All requests for extradition and mutual assistance made to and by Trinidad and Tobago are co-ordinated by the Central Authority Unit. The Central Authority Unit helps foreign and domestic authorities obtain people sought for prosecutions or to serve sentences or to obtain evidence for use in criminal cases. The Central Authority Unit only deals with requests for assistance in criminal cases.
The Central Authority Unit is also responsible for the sharing of confiscated, forfeited or seized assets with other countries, and the negotiation of mutual legal assistance agreements, international co-operation agreements and treaties with other countries.
In addition, the Central Authority Unit assists the Attorney General in carrying out his responsibilities under the International War Crimes Tribunal Act 1998 and as such provides assistance to the International Tribunal for the Territory of the former Yugoslavia and the International Tribunal for Rwanda in accordance with the provisions of the statutes of the respective tribunals.
No comment from Central Authority head
When contacted, newly appointed head of the Central Authority Netram Kowlessar said he could not comment “on that at this point.” Further efforts to contact him via telephone were unsuccessful and we were told he was not in office. The Central Authority, which falls under the remit of the Office of the Attorney General, is tasked with extradition requests.
On April 6, 2005, Maharaj, 62, was vacationing at his relatives home at Chandy Lane, El Socorro, San Juan, when he was abducted at the Samaan Tree Bar in Aranjuez. A $3 million demand was reportedly made for his safe release. However, his dismembered body was found on January 8, 2006, in a forested area in Grand Curacaye, Santa Cruz.
Initially, 12 people were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Maharaj. However, this figure dwindled when David Suchit, who was extradited in 2007, pleaded not guilty at his trial. The 12-member jury returned not guilty verdicts against him and he was subsequently deported to Trinidad.
Meanwhile, T&T nationals Zion Clarke, 33; former Defence Force Special Forces soldier Ricardo De Four, 38; Kevon Demerieux, 28, also known as Ketchit; Kevin Nixon, 33, also known as Shaka; Wayne Pierre, 42, also known as Ninja; Christopher Sealey, 39, also known as Christopher Bourne, or Boyie; and Anderson Straker, 37, also known as Gypsy’s Son, received life imprisonment, having been found guilty of kidnapping Maharaj.
They have since appealed the sentences in the US.
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