The extradition case against businessman Alex Theodore Tasker is an “urgent matter” but certain adjustments would have to be made given the “sensitive time” the country is currently experiencing given the COVID-19 health crisis.
Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes made the comments after adjourning the case against the 60-year-old Tasker until February 11 and 16.
The decision was taken following submissions by Tasker’s defence attorneys of Andrew Pilgrim Q.C. and Neville Reid and the Crown’s team of Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Aliston Seale and Senior Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas.
Tasker was brought before the law court on December 28, 2020 following a request for his extradition to the United States of America to stand trial on money laundering charges.
According to the charges, between August 2015 and April 2016 he conspired with others to launder money into the US from outside the US in violation of US law.
When the matter was called this morning, Pilgrim asked the court to confirm that his client’s case was one that was “so urgent” that it could wait to be dealt with “post the period that we are now in” as he had responsibility for certain persons” who were vulnerable to COVID-19.
The lead attorney went on to submit that the matter based on the court documents served on his team is related to or parallel to charges brought against former government minister Donville Inniss for “things” that occurred 2015/2016.
“I believe that all of what they disclosed to me at least was in their bosom [the US] for some time . . . in addition to that I cannot see the difference between if this matter is heard now or if it is heard in a month. I will bow to logic if it is that the Crown can show why this is different to any other matter that could be dealt with in February or March,” the Queen’s Counsel questioned.
“But it seems to me that the Crown [the US] brought this matter, they handed to the Crown here when they felt like . . .,” Pilgrim said questioning whether the case was original.
“It is no more original than if a local person gets charged indictably now, except that it is coming from America. I just want to be clear if this matter is heard next month if the Crown is prejudice in anyway?” he added.
Seale however, made it clear that he was not into the “politics” but only interested in the law.
“The Crown is arguing that this is an urgent matter. I care not about the politics; it is not my job. Barbados is a signatory to an extradition treaty with the US and foreign relations . . . . If the US decides to keep a matter for 40 years and then send it to Barbados and the Attorney General signs on to it, I am a servant of the Crown. And if the Attorney General asks me to conduct a matter for extradition that the USA now wants regardless of how long it was in their bosom, I will respond. I am not going to get in the politics of big island small island . . . I don’t care about that I care about the law as it stands,” Seale said adding that he was willing to give the concession to the defence on the adjournment given his peculiar circumstance but such matters should be treated with the “sense of urgency” they require.
“If the court decides that we are still in the season of COVID, and we still are and . . . we should hold strain that is the only concession that I am willing to make. But the Chief Magistrate has the final say,” the Deputy DPP said.
Chief Magistrate Weekes agreed that extradition matters were very urgent but added that given the COVID-19 pandemic, “It is a sensitive time and I don’t think this is something that we should not just consider.
“But I think it is the new normal . . . we will have to get accustom to it, to doing certain things and we will to function in a way that is obviously safer for all of us and where we can make those adjustments I think we will need to,” he said before giving the adjournment.
Tasker meanwhile remains on $200 000 bail and must continue to adhere to a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily curfew imposed by the court as well as report to the Glebe Police Station every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday by midday.