BELIZE CITY–Gary Seawell, a Belizean who has been indicted by the U.S. and for whom an extradition order was granted by Belize’s Chief Magistrate and was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, was granted a stay of execution and leave to appeal his extradition order.
Supreme Court Justice, Michelle Arana, who had ruled against Seawell’s appeal of the Chief Magistrate’s decision to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on narcotics and money laundering charges, granted him leave to take his case to the Court of Appeal.
Seawell’s attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, successfully steered the application for leave to appeal the extradition order yesterday, Wednesday, when the parties appeared before Justice Arana.
Sylvestre told Amandala today, Thursday, that in order for the application for leave to appeal, to succeed, the court had to be satisfied that perhaps an error of law was made.
Sylvestre is contending that one of the offences for which the U.S. had requested the extradition of his client, is not an extraditable offense, because it does not exist in the laws of Belize.
Extradition of Belizeans to the U.S. is governed by the Extradition Treaty of 2000 that was signed between the US and Belize. There is a schedule of offences that both states’ laws must have before an extradition request can be fulfilled.
In the Gary Seawell case, Sylvestre said that the US wants him on a charge of “continuing criminal enterprise,” which is an old US statute that was used to prosecute gangsters like Al Capone.
“When you look in the schedule, you don’t find that offense, because such a law is not known in Belize,” Sylvestre said.
“There are several offenses for which Seawell’s extradition were sought,” Sylvestre pointed out, and he noted, “One of them, however, is not an extraditable offense.”
Sylvestre explained that for an offense to be extraditable it must be an offense in the schedule and it must carry a penalty of at least one year in prison.
“Continuing criminal enterprise is not an offense in Belize, so it would be an error for the Chief Magistrate and the judge to put all of the offenses together for which the US is seeking Seawell,” said Sylvestre.
“That offense that was not caught … carries the most penalty out of all the offenses for which Seawell has been indicted,” added Sylvestre. He noted, “The penalties for the other offenses are 10 years in prison and under.”
Since the charge, continuing criminal enterprise, carries the most penalties under US law, Sylvestre reasoned that that is the offense for which the US might base their case against Seawell.
Would it be fair to proceed now with the extradition of Seawell, Sylvestre asked, knowing that offense is not an extraditable offense. “That would be an abuse of process on the part of the US,” he said.
Gary Seawell and his brothers, Mark and Dwayne, were indicted by a US grand jury on charges that between December 1994 and August 1997, they imported cocaine into the US through Mexico and they sold marijuana in Texas. They allegedly laundered 1 million dollars from the drug proceeds between Houston, Texas; Lakeland, Florida, and Belize, said US authorities.