Last update: 09-Dec-2013 9:38 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Issue over bail for man fighting extradition to US
Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar has been asked to decide whether Surinamese businessman Edmund Quincy Muntslag is entitled to bail while he waits extradition to the United States for allegedly conspiring to traffic cocaine. Muntslag’s attorney Keith Scotland applied for bail during a hearing of his extradition case at the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates Court yesterday.
Yesterday’s hearing was Muntslag’s second since he was detained shortly after arriving in Trinidad on August 29. He is accused with Dino Delano Bouterse, the son of Surinamese President Desi Bouterse, for conspiracy to export five kilos of cocaine into the US between 2011 and this year. Bouterse, who also faces an additional charge for possession of a light anti-tank weapon, was arrested in Panama in August and handed over to US authorities.
Scotland said although an extradition warrant had been issued for his client, he was yet to receive the particulars of the offence Muntslag was alleged to have committed. He also said his client only understood basic English and needed a translator for future hearings. Muntslag sat in the prisoners’ enclosure with his hands clasped and listened intently. His mother, aunt and common-law wife, Jessica, were seated at the back of the court.
Scotland refered to the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act and the Bail Act, saying both pieces of legislation gave magistrates the power to grant bail to people awaiting extradition. Scotland said his client did not have a criminal record before being indicted on the drug-trafficking charges by the US and there was no evidence he was a flight risk. “Our instructions are he is of good character and has no convictions or pending matters in Suriname or elsewhere,” he said.
Scotland said Muntslag arrived in Trinidad legally and was only arrested when he went to Trincity Mall to shop for his five-year-old son. “He didn’t arrive on a boat in Icacos,” Scotland said. He said his client had no intention of fleeing Trinidad and suggested if Ayers-Caesar was willing to grant him bail, she had the option to place conditions to ensure he attended future hearings.
In response attorney Jagdeo Singh, who is representing the US Government’s interest in the case, said bail could only be granted to those awaiting extradition in special circumstances and asked Ayers-Caesar to consider the seriousness of the offence and that Muntslag had no ties to T&T. “The court can draw the irresistible inference that he poses a major flight risk,” Singh said. He told Ayers-Caesar that in deciding on the bail issue, she also had to consider T&T’s international extradition obligations.
“There is overriding public interest in the courts ensuring T&T maintains its commitments and obligations to its international partners,” Singh said. Ayers-Caesar said she needed time to consider the submissions and adjourned the case to October 11 when she will give her decision. The substantive case will be heard on October 28. There was a noticeable increase in police presence in and around the court for Muntslag’s appearance.
Groups of police officers were positioned at strategic locations in front of the court with several officers standing at the exits of the court during the hearing. Muntslag arrived at the St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, courthouse shortly after 8 am in the back of a prison transport van, which was escorted by a marked police car. Both were filled with heavily-armed police in tactical gear. After the case was adjourned, Muntslag was taken from the court to the vehicle then returned to the Maximum Security Prison, Arouca.
Israel Khan, SC, and Netram Kowlessar also are representing the US Government while Asha Watkins-Montserin also is representing Muntslag.
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