By Emmanuel Joseph
Former insurance executive Alex Tasker will have to wait a little longer to know whether he is successful in his second bid to get special leave to appeal his extradition to the United States on money laundering and conspiracy to launder money charges.
The Trinidad-headquartered Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which met in Barbados on Monday and heard from lawyers for Tasker and the US government on the matter, announced it would reserve its decision on this second “urgent request…to hear further interventions” from the applicant.
In July, the CCJ, this country’s final appellate court, had rejected Tasker’s application for special leave to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal, saying it did not meet the necessary requirements. The Barbados court had dismissed his attempt to appeal the order made in September 2021 by Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes for him to surrender to US authorities.
On Monday, the five-member regional panel of judges also ruled that its previous order which placed a stay on any legal action against the former vice president of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) pending the outcome of this latest application would remain until a determination is made.
Tasker was not present in court for Monday’s hearing.
In his submission to the CCJ, Douglas L. Mendes SC, who is leading the legal team that also includes Andrew Pilgrim SC and Clay Hackett on behalf of the former insurance executive, argued that the Court of Appeal was wrong to reject his client’s notice of appeal simply because it was not properly filed as an application for leave to appeal and that the amended document was subsequently lodged a few days late.
“The court ought not to have shut the door on Tasker because his lawyer did it [filed the document] in the wrong way,” Mendes submitted.
The lawyer suggested that because of a technicality, the Court of Appeal should not have been absolute in rejecting the late application and denying his client access to be heard as a matter of natural justice and a constitutional right to a fair hearing.
He contended that the very fact that Tasker had filed a notice to appeal demonstrated his intent to apply for special leave to appeal once that door was open.
“He sought to invoke jurisdiction of the court, but was too late through no fault of his own,” the senior counsel said.
Mendes also asked the court to accept his client’s plea of “exceptional circumstances” where a legal document was filed late although the litigant was already “knocking on the door” as in this case.
The senior attorney therefore urged the CCJ to treat the Notice of Appeal as an “Application for Leave filed on time” or, alternatively, extend the time.
But in response, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Alliston Seale SC, appearing on behalf of the respondent, suggested that the justices should not reverse the appeal court’s decision because there are no exceptional circumstances that would merit such a decision.
He cited natural disasters and an island-wide power outage as the type of threshold that would justify a court not enforcing the rules which stipulate the timeframe within which an application for leave to appeal must be lodged.
While acknowledging that there would be other exceptional circumstances, he dismissed Mendes’ submission that human error would also qualify. He contended that to allow “a mistake” to pass as an exceptional circumstance would be to open the “floodgates” for any and everything to qualify.
He believes that should this happen, it would dilute the process and have parties constantly reappearing before the CCJ.
The state prosecutor suggested to the justices that a line must be drawn where exceptional circumstances are concerned.
“There is no bar set for exceptional circumstances,” Seale insisted.
He also argued that the CCJ did not have the power to extend the time for the late application given what was before it.
Following the submissions, the appeal justices said they would consider Tasker’s request to reopen his application for special leave, and if it is reopened, whether his appeal should be allowed.